The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04-43

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
TPW - Kings Co.: Rawding Road - Repave, Mr. M. Parent 3452
TPW - Mount Uniacke: Rockwell Dr. - Repave, Mr. J. MacDonell 3452
Environ. & Lbr. - Pockwock Trails: Recreational Vehicles - Use,
Hon. B. Barnet 3452
Nat. Res. - North Queens County: White-tailed Deer -
Population Control, Hon. K. Morash 3452
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1568, Nat'l. Nursing Wk. (05/10-05/15/04) - Recognize,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 3453
Vote - Affirmative 3453
Res. 1569, Kierans, Eric: Death of - Tribute, (by Hon. J. Muir)
The Premier 3454
Vote - Affirmative 3454
Res. 1570, Atl. Wind Power Corp. - Turbine Proj., Hon. C. Clarke 3455
Vote - Affirmative 3455
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 76, Health Services and Insurance Act, Ms. D. Whalen 3455
No. 77, Animal Cruelty Prevention Act/Wildlife Act, Mr. R. MacKinnon 3455
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1571, CAMPUT Conf.: N.S. Rep. - Comments,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3456
Res. 1572, Haynes, Denise - Racquetball Medal, Mr. W. Gaudet 3456
Vote - Affirmative 3457
Res. 1573, Taylor, Janet: Shelburne Co. Fire Chief - Appt.,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 3457
Vote - Affirmative 3458
Res. 1574, Harvey, Paulette - E. Hants Mun. Award, Mr. J. MacDonell 3458
Vote - Affirmative 3458
Res. 1575, First Responders: Contribution - Recognize, Hon. E. Fage 3459
Vote - Affirmative 3459
Res. 1576, Abilities Fdn. Fundraiser: Participants - Thank, Ms. J. Massey 3459
Vote - Affirmative 3460
Res. 1577, Hfx. Mainland North Vol. Awards: Recipients - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 3460
Vote - Affirmative 3461
Res. 1578, EI: Gov't. (Can.) - Rollback, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 3461
Res. 1579, Red Tail Nature Awareness Ctr.: Importance - Recognize,
Mr. C. Parker 3462
Vote - Affirmative 3462
Res. 1580, Educ./Health Prom.: Com. Use of Schools - Costs,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3463
Res. 1581, Williams, Maynard: NSADA Pres. - Appt., Mr. M. Parent 3463
Vote - Affirmative 3464
Res. 1582, O'Connor, Rev. Bernard - Vatican Appt., Mr. G. Gosse 3464
Vote - Affirmative 3465
Res. 1583, NSSBA: Contribution - Recognize, Mr. L. Glavine 3465
Vote - Affirmative 3466
Res. 1584, Garson, Craig: Fellow ACTL - Congrats., Mr. G. Hines 3466
Vote - Affirmative 3467
Res. 1585, Prospect Village Library: Establishment - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 3467
Vote - Affirmative 3467
Res. 1586, Heart & Stroke Fdn.: Vols. - Thank, Mr. Gerald Sampson 3467
Vote - Affirmative 3468
Res. 1587, MacIntyre, Dexter: Rowing Machine -
Million Metre Milestone, Hon. J. Muir 3468
Vote - Affirmative 3469
Res. 1588, MS Awareness Mo. (05/04) - Acknowledge,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 3469
Vote - Affirmative 3470
Res. 1589, Lunenburg Co. Com. Health Bd.: Efforts - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 3470
Vote - Affirmative 3470
Res. 1590, MacLeod, Amanda - RCL Literary Award, Mr. S. McNeil 3470
Vote - Affirmative 3471
Res. 1591, Sackville Heights JH Film Club - Film Fest. Award,
Hon. B. Barnet 3471
Vote - Affirmative 3472
Res. 1592, Nat'l. Nurses Wk. (05/10-05/16/04) - Celebrate,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3472
Vote - Affirmative 3473
Res. 1593, Green Office Challenge - Lunenburg Jr./Sr. HS/
Lunenburg Fish. Co., Hon. M. Baker 3473
Vote - Affirmative 3474
Res. 1594, Champlain 400 Festival: Queens Co. Hist. Soc. -
Congrats., Hon. K. Morash 3474
Vote - Affirmative 3475
Res. 1595, Commons Agric. Comm.: Efforts - Support, Mr. B. Taylor 3475
Vote - Affirmative 3475
Res. 1596, RCMP S. Shore Traffic Serv./Warren's Trucking -
Safety Prog., Hon. M. Baker 3475
Vote - Affirmative 3476
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 420, Health - Home Care Serv.: Occup. Therapy -
Exclusion Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 3476
No. 421, Health: Home Care Progs. - Potential,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 3477
No. 422, Fin. - Gas Prices: Increases/HST Revenue - Correlation,
Mr. D. Dexter 3479
No. 423, Fin. - Gas Tax: Reduction - Commit, Mr. W. Gaudet 3480
No. 424, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: UNSM Recommendations -
Stonewalling, Mr. F. Corbett 3481
No. 425, Prem.: Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank MLA -
Conf. Comments, Mr. W. Gaudet 3483
No. 426, TCH - Festivals/Events: Stability - Plans,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 3484
No. 427, Agric. & Fish.: AgraPoint/Dept./Fed. - Relationship,
Mr. S. McNeil 3485
No. 428, Health: Eating Disorders - Treatment Wait Times,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3486
No. 429, Environ. & Lbr.: Drinking Water - Source Protection,
Ms. J. Massey 3487
No. 430, Agric. & Fish. - Aquaculture: Gov't. (N.S.) - Position,
Mr. H. Theriault 3488
No. 431, Health - Dart. Gen. Hosp.: Nursing Hours - Reduction,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3490
No. 432, Treasury & Policy Bd.: Political Aides - Staff Percentage,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 3491
No. 433, Nat. Res. - Infested Wood: Removal - Plans, Mr. J. MacDonell 3493
No. 434, Fin.: User Fees - Increases, Ms. D. Whalen 3494
No. 435, TPW: Toll Rd. Study - Cost, Mr. C. Parker 3495
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Ms. M. More 3496
Mr. L. Glavine 3499
Hon. C. Clarke 3502
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:22 P.M. 3507
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 3507
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
VLT Plebiscite: Gov't. (N.S.) - Allow:
Ms. D. Whalen 3508
Mr. M. Parent 3511
Mr. J. Pye 3514
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:30 P.M. 3517
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:55 P.M. 3517
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 78, Appropriations Act, 2004, Hon. P. Christie 3517
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 78, Appropriations Act, 2004 3517
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 78, Appropriations Act, 2004 3519
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., May 12th at 2:00 p.m. 3520
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1597, Clayton, Courtney - Wendy's Scholarship, Hon. R. Hurlburt 3521
Res. 1598, Harbour View Convenience & Video: Contributions -
Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3521
Res. 1599, Assure Drive Driving Sch.: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 3522
Res. 1600, Hilltop Child Care Ctr.: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 3522
Res. 1601, Seaforth Plumbing & Heating: Contributions -
Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3523
Res. 1602, Bear Den Café: Contributions - Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3523
Res. 1603, Oxford: Youth Fundraising - Congrats., The Speaker 3524
Res. 1604, Sports - Basketball: Springhill Golden Eagles - Medal (Silver),
The Speaker 3524
Res. 1605, Sports - Basketball: Springhill Golden Eagles - Championship,
The Speaker 3525
Res. 1606, Springhill/Oxford Kidney Fdn. - Fundraising, The Speaker 3525
Res. 1607, Springhill Baptist Church - World Vision Famine, The Speaker 3526
Res. 1608, Sports - Basketball: Springhill Golden Eagles - Reg. Title,
The Speaker 3526
Res. 1609, Steeves Family/1859 Springhill Army Cadets:
Springhill Com. Ctr. - Donation, The Speaker 3527
Res. 1610, Stonehouse, Ashley - Adventure in Citizenship Prog.,
The Speaker 3527

[Page 3451]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. James DeWolfe, Ms. Joan Massey, Mr. Russell MacKinnon

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Preston:

Therefore be it resolved that government allows for a plebiscite on the elimination of VLTs as was once called for by the member for Kings North.

This will be debated this evening at 6:00 p.m.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

3451

[Page 3452]

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition that is signed by about 66 people. The petition reads: Whereas Rawding Road in Kings County is a well travelled road; and whereas the condition of Rawding Road is worse than most roads in Afghanistan; and whereas to drive Rawding Road is to do serious damage to one's car and to one's lumbar region and one's spine; therefore it should be immediately repaved forthwith if not sooner. I have pictures to go along with it.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from residents on Rockwell Drive in Mount Uniacke. "We the undersigned residents of Rockwell Drive living at civic numbers . . ." which are crossed out, ". . . respectfully request that the Department of Transportation & Public Works repave our street. The original paving was completed in 1984 (20 yrs ago). In recent years the street has been in extremely bad condition and we would request improvements (repaving) as soon as possible." There are 124 signatures plus my own to make 125.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. The operative clause is, "We, the undersigned people, do hereby petition to have the Halifax Regional Water Commission open the Pockwock waterline and surrounding trail systems to the users of recreational vehicles." It is signed by several hundred constituents of Halifax Regional Municipality in East Hants.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition for the control of the white-tailed deer population in North Queens County.

MR. SPEAKER: I assume the honourable minister has signed that petition, has he?

MR. MORASH: Yes, sir.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

[Page 3453]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1568

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas this week, May 10th to May 15th, is National Nursing Week, a week for us to recognize nurses across the province for their commitment to ensuring the best possible care for Nova Scotians; and

Whereas nurses are key members of health care teams and are dedicated to life-long learning through the many changes and challenges that accompany working in the health care system; and

Whereas RNs and LPNs consistently display professionalism, integrity and dignity in their everyday work to improve the health of their patients, and, in turn, the nursing profession and the health care system;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House recognize May 10th to May 15th as National Nursing Week, and acknowledge our nurses for the critical role they play in providing high-quality patient care to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 3454]

RESOLUTION NO. 1569

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Premier, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas former federal Cabinet Minister and Order of Canada recipient Eric Kierans, passed away this week at the age of 90; and

Whereas following a distinguished career in the private sector, Quebec National Assembly and the Parliament of Canada, Eric Kierans found his way to Nova Scotia; and

Whereas after several years as an economics professor at Dalhousie University, Eric Kierans chaired a provincial task force on constitutional reform in the early 1990s;

Therefore be it resolved that this House pay tribute to the memory of Eric Kierans for his contributions to Nova Scotia and to Canada, and express our deepest condolences to his family.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries on an introduction.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to bring everybody's attention to people in the gallery today: my lovely wife; my son, Alec, the little guy; and my son, André. If they would stand up and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome the minister's family to the gallery today. We hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable Minister of Energy.

[Page 3455]

RESOLUTION NO. 1570

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas a remote section of West Pubnico is now home to a relatively new 'green' form of energy generation; and

Whereas Atlantic Wind Power Corporation has plans to have a total of 17 turbines in the West Pubnico area by this Fall; and

Whereas although not yet operational, the 1.8 megawatt wind turbines will soon be used for general distribution over the provincial grid;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend all those people involved in this wind energy project as we look forward to a greener form of energy, a source for which Nova Scotia should never find itself at a loss.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 76 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 197 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Health Services and Insurance Act. (Ms. Diana Whalen)

Bill No. 77 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 22 of the Acts of 1996. The Animal Cruelty Prevention Act; and to Amend Chapter 504 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Wildlife Act. (Mr. Russell MacKinnon)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.

[Page 3456]

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1571

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Halifax is currently being honoured by the presence of the Canadian Association of Members of Public Utilities Tribunals, an international energy conference attended by delegates from Canada, the United and Mexico; and

Whereas the CAMPUT Conference is an opportunity for provincial representatives to showcase a forward-thinking province with a bright energy future; and

Whereas yesterday at the conference, the person representing the Province of Nova Scotia, while introducing the federal Minister of Natural Resources, made comments considered by many to be inappropriate for the forum and for that person's role as representative of the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its regret for yesterday's comments by the province's representative at the CAMPUT Conference, and extend its apology to conference delegates.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Liberal House Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1572

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 3457]

Whereas Denise Haynes from Comeauville won the Canadian Racquetball Championship on May 1, 2004, in Prince Edward Island; and

Whereas Denise, by winning the Canadian racquetball gold medal, qualifies for the International Championship competition to be held in Mexico next December; and

Whereas Denise brings honour to the young people and to the population of this province;

Therefore be it resolved that this Assembly congratulate Denise Haynes for being the first time Racquetball Nova Scotia Junior Canadian Champion and express best wishes for the upcoming international competition in St. Luis, Mexico, in December.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 1573

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Shelburne County recently saw the election of its first female fire chief; and

Whereas Ms. Janet Taylor was elected to the position in April and will guide a firefighting force that is strong in their desire to help the community in any way they can; and

Whereas while being the first female chief for Shelburne County, there are at least six other female firefighters in Shelburne County, four more at Sable River, and two others in Little Harbour;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs express our congratulations to Ms. Taylor for taking on this challenging position and wish her every success.

[Page 3458]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1574

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas volunteerism brings services and attractions to communities that are otherwise unaffordable; and

Whereas local health care is a service that many rural communities may only dream of having; and

Whereas on Volunteer Awards Night, April 21, 2004, Ms. Paulette Harvey was honoured by the Municipality of East Hants for her work in the Rawdon Hills Health Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Paulette Harvey for helping to make local health care delivery a reality in Rawdon.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 3459]

The honourable Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act.

RESOLUTION NO. 1575

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Nova Scotians now have better protection when there is an emergency involving hazardous materials; and

Whereas a federal-provincial-municipal co-operative effort has created a network of six specially trained and equipped teams across the province; and

Whereas the program has seen about $600,000 worth of equipment distributed among first responders or pre-positioned at provincial storage facilities as well as additional training for the first responders themselves;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the valuable contribution these trained first responders make to the safety of all Nova Scotians, as witnessed recently in their response to the recent ammonia leak in Oxford and a train derailment in Pictou County, and thank all first responders across the province for their continued dedication.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1576

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 3460]

Whereas last Friday, May 7, 2004, over 60 participants, one of whom was my husband, Ed Massey, raised over $74,000 for the Abilities Foundation of Nova Scotia by rappelling from the top of 1801 Hollis Street; and

Whereas the Abilities Foundation enables Nova Scotians with physical disabilities to enhance their quality of life by realizing their individual potential; and

Whereas funds raised will make a difference right here in Nova Scotia - from funding for a wheelchair so a child can go to school to employment skill training for a training to begin to realize his or her individual potential;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank all those who participated in the recent Abilities Foundation fundraiser and those who sponsored them.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 1577

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Halifax Mainland North Volunteer Recognition Committee held its annual awards dinner on May 6, 2004, to honour volunteers who have made a difference in their community; and

Whereas Marguerite Ainsworthy, Carrol Coffill, Jocelyne Croox, George Dickey, Paul Flemming, David Harrison, Karen Robinson and Mary Smith were all recognized for the contributions they have made to improve their community; and

[Page 3461]

Whereas the dedication of these individuals has been invaluable to their respective organizations and their selfless dedication has made a difference in the lives of many in our community;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate these individuals and acknowledge the commitment they have made to their community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1578

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas internal forensic auditors have told the Martin Government time and time again that a $15 billion EI surplus is all that is needed if there is a downturn in the economy; and

Whereas the Martin Government has continually gouged EI premiums off the backs of workers across Nova Scotia and everywhere else in Canada and put into place nearly $50 billion in surplus EI funding, essentially imposing another tax on Canadian workers; and

Whereas EI premiums are not tax dollars, but only a payment hedging against unemployment or insurance to assist in the event of a temporary job loss;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs immediately call upon the Martin Government to begin providing additional relief through a rollback on EI premiums and putting dollars back into the pockets of people where they rightfully belong.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3462]

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1579

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Billy MacDonald of Diamond, Pictou County established the Red Tail Nature Awareness Centre there in 1992; and

Whereas he and his partner, Annette Poirier, offer numerous camps there for children and adults based on respecting nature; and

Whereas the whole focus of the Red Tail Nature Centre is to protect biodiversity in our environment and to develop in others a stronger interest in building a relationship which values all life;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature recognize the important environmental and nature education being carried on by the Red Tail Nature Awareness Centre and wish them much success in future years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 3463]

RESOLUTION NO. 1580

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on May 4, 2004, Halifax Regional School Board officials apprised members of the Human Resources Committee that the Tory Government's community use of schools policy will cost the Halifax Regional School Board $200,000 out of its existing budget; and

Whereas the additional costs may translate into the loss of upwards of four teaching positions; and

Whereas as of today, the Minister of Education has not clarified as to how much this legislation before the House will impact on Nova Scotia's school boards budgets;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health Promotion apprise members of this House and the eight school boards of Nova Scotia how much the community use of school board's policy will cost each school board.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1581

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers' Association recently held its annual president's dinner to recognize valuable members of the association; and

Whereas Kentville's Maynard Williams was elected the NSADA President for 2004 earlier that day; and

[Page 3464]

Whereas Mr. William's is a committed community leader and successful business person whose experience and dedication will greatly enhance the efforts of the NSADA;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in congratulating Mr. Maynard Williams on his election as President of the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers Association and wish him much success in his new role.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure this afternoon to introduce to the House of Assembly students from Eric Graves Junior High School. They are here, Grade 7 students, they are in both galleries. They are accompanied by Ms. McCulloch, Ms. Holiday, Mr. Pelham, Mr. Flinn and Ms. McKenzie. If they would stand, we would welcome them today here to the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guests in the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1582

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Reverend Bernard O'Connor was born in Sydney and raised in Sydney Mines; and

Whereas Reverend Bernard O'Connor attended St. Paul's Seminary in Ottawa and received a Bachelor of Theology degree and received the Licentiate in Canon Law and was ordained a priest in 1997 and spent his first four years at St. Theresa's Parish in Sydney; and

[Page 3465]

Whereas for the last 10 years Reverend O'Connor has taught political science and is an assistant dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Eastern Michigan University and has won two prestigious awards;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly congratulate Reverend Bernard O'Connor on his new appointment in the Vatican overseeing churches in the Ukraine, Armenia and other parts of Eastern Europe and Asia as part of his new position in the Congregation of Oriental Churches.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1583

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Nova Scotia School Boards Association will be celebrating 50 years of service to school boards and the 50th Nova Scotia School Boards Association Annual General Meeting will be held May 27th to May 29th; and

Whereas the 50th Anniversary is an occasion to reflect on past achievements and milestones, which have helped shape the association as it exists today, the theme 50 Years and Still Learning reflects the contribution to Nova Scotia education in its 50th year, through the Lead and Achieve initiative; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia School Boards Association mission statement is dedicated to excellence in public education for students by providing services to member school boards;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature acknowledge the significant contribution that the NSSBA makes each day and wish them continued success in the future.

[Page 3466]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1584

MR. GARY HINES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas one of the best, if not the best, criminal trial lawyers in Nova Scotia, Craig Garson was recently inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers during their recent meeting in Phoenix, Arizona; and

Whereas the American College of Trial Lawyers, founded in 1950, is one of the most prestigious legal associations anywhere in North America and comprises the best of the trial Bar lawyers from Canada and the U.S.; and

Whereas fellowship into the college is by invitation only, and inductees must be experienced trial lawyers whose professional careers have been marked by the high standards of ethical conduct;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs recognize the significance of this prestigious accomplishment, and wish Craig the very best representing the legal interests of Nova Scotians when required.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3467]

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1585

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Village of Prospect has opened a library in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church hall; and

Whereas this project has been accomplished because of the tireless effort of community volunteers; and

Whereas the Prospect Village Library indicates the energy and initiative of these areas residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Village of Prospect on the establishment of its library with best wishes in its future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1586

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 3468]

Whereas on April 29, 2004, the Heart and Stroke Foundation paid tribute to its Inverness County volunteers; and

Whereas the foundation estimated that there were approximately 200 volunteers in the central and northern part of the county alone;

Whereas despite rough weather and the fact that the annual drive is in February, contributions in the areas were up to about $20,000;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature extend our appreciation and thanks to the countless volunteers throughout Inverness County and our province, who are assisting to raise both awareness and funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1587

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Dexter MacIntyre of Truro on May 3, 2004 reached the one million metre milestone on a stationary rowing machine in just 13 months; and

Whereas Dexter MacIntyre who is 65 years young is the first client at Diamond Fitness to reach the thousand kilometre mark on a rowing machine; and

Whereas Dexter MacIntyre who says he has never been in better shape is an advocate for healthy living and is a role model for adults of all ages;

[Page 3469]

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Dexter MacIntyre for reaching the one million metre milestone on a stationary rowing machine and for his active promotion of a healthy lifestyle for persons of all ages.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 1588

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Multiple Sclerosis, better known as MS, is an unpredictable and disabling disease of the central nervous system; and

Whereas Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world with three people being diagnosed every day in our country; and

Whereas volunteer-driven events like the Super Cities Walk for MS, the MS Carnation Campaign and the door-to-door canvass for funds are being conducted throughout our province to raise funds for MS research and services;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature acknowledge the month of May as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and extend our appreciation and thanks to the countless volunteers throughout our province who are assisting to raise both awareness and funds for MS.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[Page 3470]

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1589

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas all citizens in Nova Scotia want a healthy lifestyle; and

Whereas it takes the whole community working together to improve their lifestyles; and

Whereas the Lunenburg County Community Health Board is focusing on youth and healthy lifestyle choices;

Therefore be it resolved that special congratulations and encouragement be extended to the Lunenburg County Community Health Board for their efforts to improve lifestyles of our constituents.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1590

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 3471]

Whereas the Royal Canadian Legion has an annual literary contest for essays and poems on remembrance; and

Whereas Amanda MacLeod, a Grade 5 student at the Annapolis East Elementary School is a winner for the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Amanda MacLeod's poem has advanced to the national competition in Ottawa;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Amanda MacLeod and wish her well in the national competition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay on an introduction.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, in our west gallery are three occupational therapists who are here today to do some lobbying to try to get the government to include the cost of occupational therapy in home care. Would the members please welcome Carolyn Kelly, Lexie Dorey, and Shannon Hichey. If they would please rise and receive the welcome of the members. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 1591

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Sackville Heights Junior High Film Club under the guidance of student teacher Jenn Margeson and Co-op teacher Sue MacKay created a short film entitled Lord of the Onion Rings, a parody of the Lord of the Rings; and

[Page 3472]

Whereas the film competed against nine others selected for the top 10 and showed during a film festival on April 23, 2004; and

Whereas the Sackville Heights Junior High Film Club placed first against the other films created by junior high and high school competitors, the students wrote the script, filmed, edited, narrated and acted in the film;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House send congratulations to Sackville Heights Junior High Film Club, Jenn Margeson and Sue MacKay for their hard work in the creation of the film and wish them all the best in their future film business.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1592

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas National Nurses Week recognizes and honours the many achievements and contributions of those who choose the discipline as a profession; and

Whereas this year National Nurses Week, taking place May 10th to May 16th, provides an opportunity for all Nova Scotians to pay respect to nursing professions who work tirelessly in our hospitals, medical clinics and long-term care facilities; and

Whereas nursing professionals through their endless contributions to duty and service have proven to be indispensable and so very important through hurricanes, floods and other national emergencies;

[Page 3473]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House celebrate National Nurses Week May 10th to May 18th and recognize the contribution of those in the nursing profession who continue to strive daily to ensure that our health care system responds to the needs of the people throughout our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1593

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Green Office Challenge promotes the preservation of our environment through conservation and recycling efforts in the workplace; and

Whereas Lunenburg Junior Senior High School students James Graham, Matthew Baker, Amber Doucette, Troy Martin and Tanya Robinson chose the Lunenburg Fish Company to evaluate as to their environmental friendliness as part of a school project; and

Whereas James, Matthew, Amber, Troy and Tanya looked at the benefits of recycling and researched ways to conserve our environment in an office atmosphere;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate James, Matthew, Amber, Troy and Tanya and the Lunenburg Fish Company for their participation in the Green Office Challenge and on their commitment to enhancing our environment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3474]

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1594

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Nova Scotia is hosting the 400th Anniversary of the founding of l'Acadie this year; and

Whereas in May 1604 renowned explorer Samuel de Champlain visited several locations in Queens County, including Liverpool Harbour, Port Mouton Bay and Herring Cove; and

Whereas the Queens County Historical Society will be marking this anniversary with festivities throughout the weekend of May 15, 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Queens County Historical Society and all of the volunteers for their dedication involved in planning and hosting the Champlain 400 Festival in Queens County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 3475]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1595

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas two well known national meat packing companies did not meet yesterday's deadline by the House of Commons Agriculture Committee after being found in contempt of Parliament last week; and

Whereas the request for financial information from Cargill Foods of Winnipeg and Lakeside Packers is being sought by the House of Commons Agriculture Committee in an attempt to find out what happened to the millions of dollars in government aid handed out during the mad cow crisis; and

Whereas the companies are running the risk of imprisonment unless this information is brought forward;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs support the efforts of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee in their pursuit of such financial records.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1596

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 3476]

Whereas having safe roads on which to drive is important to Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the South Shore Traffic Service Division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is teaming up with Warren's Trucking as an effort to improve safety on Highway No. 103 by riding with the company's truckers and reporting violations to traffic cars on patrol in the area.

Whereas this joint initiative is being explored on a trial basis and may be extended to snowplow drivers during the Winter driving season;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly commend the RCMP South Shore Traffic Services and Warren's Trucking on their commitment to improving driving safety in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:40 p.m. and will end at 1:40 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH - HOME CARE SERV.:

OCCUP. THERAPY - EXCLUSION EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, occupational therapists are a valuable but underutilized resource in the health care field in Nova Scotia. The stated goal of this government related to seniors care is to help seniors retain their independence and remain in their own homes as long as possible. Occupational therapists offer unique skills that would help achieve that goal and prevent falls and injury among the elderly, yet occupational therapy

[Page 3477]

is not presently part of the home care system in this province. My question for the Minister of Health is, why is occupational therapy not on the list of home care services for seniors?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that our desire to increase the level of service that we're able to provide, in terms of home care for seniors. As a matter of fact, I have had discussions with the federal Health Minister this week, and increasing the capacity of our home care services was one of the topics that was under discussion in that conversation.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure the Minister of Health actually heard the question. Falls among seniors cause increased disability, loss of independence and, often, the premature need for nursing home care. Complications from fall-related injuries can even lead to an early death in the frail elderly. Occupational therapists are highly skilled at assessing a senior's home for safety hazards, assisting with customized care to improve a senior's abilities in day-to-day living. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So I would ask the Minister of Health, why is your government so shortsighted in the delivery of home care services?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that through the Office of Health Promotion, through the Seniors' Secretariat and through the Department of Health, we are involved in the development of a fall strategy with respect to seniors. Obviously, a very important part of that is not just the prevention but it is also the need to be able to assist, following incidents. As I indicated, that is one of the things that we want to pursue, relative to the expansion of our services in home care.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health's good intentions are not enough. A nursing home bed can cost as much as $72,000 a year for one senior and, of course, acute care beds cost even more. We all accept that nursing home care should be the last option for seniors. So my question for the Minister of Health is very simple, will he commit to adding occupational therapists to the list of core services offered?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I will commit to do is to ensure that we implement, as much as we possibly can, the recommendations that come forward as a result of the fall strategy. I would be very surprised if the inclusion of the service referenced by the honourable member is not very high on that list of recommendations.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH: HOME CARE PROGS. - POTENTIAL

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Last year, leading up to the election, the government finally revealed their so-called plan for health care, in the form of a document that was called Your Health Matters. Out of

[Page 3478]

a 53-page document, there was one paragraph that stated that the government needs to give families fairer and easier access to health services in their own communities. Missing in that plan was any mention of home care. The only way that you can reduce wait times and, at the same time, manage the health care needs of our aging population is to significantly invest in other components f health care, namely home care. My question to the minister is, why have this government and this minister ignored the potential of home care programs when addressing the health care needs of Nova Scotians?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member and the House that we have, indeed, not ignored that subject. It is a subject that we are actively pursuing. I referenced, in answer to an earlier question, my conversations with the federal Health Minister as that being an extremely important part of the services that we want to expand in this province and points to the need of the federal government becoming involved in that and I can say that those conversations with the federal minister were very encouraging.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, occupational therapists, such as in our gallery today, have been approaching this government for some time with a very valuable message for the minister and the government - that they can play a vital role in the health care system and reduce the likelihood of readmission after discharge from hospitals and, at the same time, they delay the time frame where residents need to enter into nursing homes if the service they provide could be covered under home care. So my question to the minister, if he is so concerned about issues such as wait times and providing health care services close to home, why has he not introduced occupational therapy services under the umbrella of home care?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I would answer the honourable member in a manner similar to which I answered the honourable Leader of the Opposition, that we have embarked upon a fall strategy with the Office of Health Promotion, with the Senior Citizens' Secretariat whose budget we increased by $150,000 this year. The Department of Health is very much involved in that. We recognize that we have to do everything we can to ensure that our senior citizens stay in their homes for as long as possible and we will, indeed, be implementing the recommendations that come forward and, as I indicated, I would anticipate that the subject matter of the honourable member's questioning would be very high on that list of recommendations that would come forward.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the minister has made reference to the federal government as well. This government has and will receive from the federal government $475 million in the form of a health reform fund. One of the target areas for that funding is home care. So my final question for the minister is, will the minister make a commitment here today that given the availability of the health reform fund from the federal

[Page 3479]

government, that he will cover the costs of occupational therapy under our Home Care Program.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, we will, in fact, be doing everything we can to implement the recommendations that come forward from the process related to the Fall strategy. As I indicated, I would anticipate that that service being provided through home care would be very high on the list of recommendations and, obviously, it is something that is in the interests of all Nova Scotians to see implemented and certainly this Minister of Health is not anxious to take actions that prevent people from being treated in a manner that keeps them in their homes for a much longer period of time. That is our objective and we will work toward that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

FIN. - GAS PRICES: INCREASES/HST REVENUE - CORRELATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Consumers across the province are reeling from massive spikes in gasoline prices and they're putting a strain on family budgets. Many truckers and small business people are watching their incomes dwindle because of gas prices and things like insurance premiums. The province's swift action on this has been to decide that they need more time to study it before they'll bring any relief to consumers.

Mr. Speaker, every day the government studies this problem, the more money comes out of consumers' pockets and the more that goes into the provincial Treasury and HST and since the industry analysts are predicting that prices will remain high throughout the Summer, my question for the minister is, how much does the Finance Department estimate the increased prices will mean in a windfall of HST?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, that's a question that the Department of Finance has looked on a number of issues, whether it be gas prices or other areas. The general trend is that when prices go up like that, the usage goes down. So generally we don't see large demands. (Interruptions)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I think Nova Scotians deserve to have some understanding of how much the government benefits from increased gas prices. The government did not budget for these windfall revenues so they should be returned to Nova Scotians. With the 7 cents per litre price increase, the government will have taken in somewhere in the vicinity of $18,000 a day in additional HST revenue. So my question for the minister is this, will his government commit to setting aside all of the gas tax windfall for a winter heating rebate program for Nova Scotians who will undoubtedly be feeling the pinch?

[Page 3480]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member will recall during our update in December of last year's analysis that in a number of areas we were down. As we indicated at the time, the use of tobacco was down so the revenue was down and the motive fuel, those amounts were down. There is a tie-in between the price and the amount of usage and this government, as we project that, you know that to be happening. The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has indicated he is going to be making an announcement in the next few days and that will come in the fullness of time.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, gas prices fluctuate - there's no question about that. But, the price of crude oil is at a 13-year high. Industry experts expect that price will keep at that level or, frankly, go higher throughout the Summer. Since Nova Scotians can't expect a break from the big oil companies, I'd like to ask the Premier this, when will your government commit to setting aside all of the gas tax windfall for a rebate program for Nova Scotians?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, already the government is putting all of its gas tax revenues back into the road structure of Nova Scotia. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works has outlined the tremendous amount of work that has to be done on the bridges of Nova Scotia. As a matter of fact, the member for Pictou West brought a particular issue to the attention of the House of Assembly very recently. I believe that drivers want the gas tax spent on the roads and the bridges and that's where we're going to spend it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

FIN. - GAS TAX: REDUCTION - COMMIT

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier has been giving some indication in the media that he wants to do something to help ease the burden caused by the high price of gas. All talk, it seems, but no action. The NDP have talked about some form of regulation, but they don't know what that will look like. So, again, we've heard much talk but no action. Mr. Speaker, our Party has called upon the government to do one concrete thing - rollback the gas tax to where it was three years ago, roll it back to the level it was when the Premier took office. My first question to the Premier is, will the Premier commit to reducing the gasoline tax and bring it back to the level it was before he took power?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member who is the Leader of the Liberal Party is aware that I have made a public commitment that we would bring in our strategy relative to the high prices of gas at the pumps this week and it will be brought forward this week. I will remind the member opposite that there is a tremendous amount of money that is being collected from Nova Scotians every time they purchase gas at the gas pump - but it goes to Ottawa. We want that money back and we want that money back to be spent on our roads.

[Page 3481]

I would think that perhaps rather than ask this government what it does with its gas tax - because it goes on the roads - you might ask your counterparts in Ottawa to start sending back some of their gas tax money.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, it's kind of strange when that Premier was on this side there was no talk about increasing gas taxes. When he turned to be sitting on the side of government, he didn't go to Ottawa asking permission to increase gas taxes, which this government did three years ago. High gasoline prices are going to affect tourism and they're going to affect the price of every product shipped in by truck. Again to the Premier, when will the Premier commit to taking concrete steps to help alleviate the effects caused by the price of gas?

THE PREMIER: I can assure the Leader of the Liberal Party and all Nova Scotians that the government strategy on this will be released this week.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, every rise in the price of goods and services means more tax for government. In the long run, it means that people will have less money in their pockets. Again, my final question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier do something now and provide leadership instead of doing nothing?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will assure the member opposite that we will keep our commitment to the members of the House and to Nova Scotians by bringing forward our strategy this week.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.:

UNSM RECOMMENDATIONS - STONEWALLING

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier knows that most incorporated towns in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality have a population with below average income, higher than average property taxes and a shift in population to less developed rural areas with fewer local services. Now the UNSM has taken a constructive approach to this serious problem, they recommend a joint review to ensure that municipal equalization provides the basis for all Nova Scotians to have reasonably comparable local services and taxes. They recommend a completion of the service exchange and municipal taxation of Nova Scotia Power. So I want to ask the Premier, why is your government stonewalling on these serious issues and on the constructive recommendations of the UNSM?

THE PREMIER: I refer that question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

[Page 3482]

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, we believe that it's important to work closely with the UNSM and to support municipalities. Having said that, the Government of Nova Scotia has invested over $40 million this year to ensure that municipalities are able to provide a level of service that's equal across this province.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the minister quite well knows that that is not an accurate statement. Cape Breton has suffered the single biggest population decline of any municipality; the residents were told that municipal amalgamation would solve this problem and it didn't. Municipal leaders are expected to support local services, despite severe depopulation, economic uncertainty and flawed programs of municipal equalization. The MLAs for Cape Breton North and Cape Breton West have both taken potshots at CBRM Council leaders; it's time to rise above that debate, though.

Why won't the Premier undertake a joint review so that the CBRM and many other hard-pressed municipal units can have some hope that this province is listening and really doing something?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we provide municipalities with over $40 million in funding to help defray costs and expenses to provide services to their constituents. This year we've increased that amount of money and I point out to the member opposite that the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, in terms of the equalization formula, has received approximately 50 per cent of all equalization to municipalities in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. CORBETT: Let's talk, Mr. Speaker, about taxation and real taxation on NSPI. It's the only major corporation in this province that pays property taxes directly to the province and the province then returns some of that back to the municipalities. That was wrong when former governments did it and it's wrong today. It has been used to avoid establishing a fair system of municipal equalization. So I want to ask the Premier, again, when will your government stop giving Nova Scotia Power preferable taxation rates and start treating municipalities fairly?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the whole issue of energy costs in Nova Scotia is a very, very interesting subject for Nova Scotians because clearly the cost of energy in Nova Scotia is going up. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable Premier has the floor.

THE PREMIER: What the government is doing is looking for a way to control energy costs at the pump. We're looking at ways in which we can monitor the cost of furnace oil for Nova Scotians in the coming winter. We are also very, very concerned about the cost of

[Page 3483]

electricity for our residents and the cost of electricity in our businesses. If we don't walk the fine line very, very well, we'll create more havoc and will not solve anything. I hope what the member opposite is not suggesting is that we allow astronomical increases in electricity costs at the same time as we're having astronomical increases at the gas pump.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

PREM.: WAVERLEY-FALL RIVER-BEAVER BANK MLA - CONF. COMMENTS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is, again, for the Premier. Yesterday the MLA for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank was chosen by this government to represent our province at an international public utilities conference. The member decided to open his remarks with a joke that was offensive and in very bad taste. My first question to the Premier is, what steps has he taken to discipline the MLA for his actions, which caused embarrassment for our province and to the people we are sent here to represent?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has indicated that he has taken exception to the way in which the Province of Nova Scotia was represented at the CAMPUT breakfast yesterday morning. What I can say is that the member who represented the Government of Nova Scotia at that particular time has indicated that his choice of words in that particular venue were unfortunate. He has forwarded, to the chairman of the URB, who was responsible for putting together the conference, and, as well, he has forwarded documentation to Minister Efford, acknowledging his poor choice of venue for those kinds of remarks, and apologizing. I consider the matter closed.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to table the Government of Nova Scotia's policy on sexual harassment. The policy states sexual harassment is defined as, "objectionable . . . comment or attention of a sexual nature to a person or persons, that is known or ought reasonably to be known as unwelcome." The policy further states that, "Sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Individuals who engage in such behaviour will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination." My question to the Premier is, given that the government has seen fit to put in place a sexual harassment policy for its employees, why will the Premier not hold his own caucus to the same standards?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the Leader of the Liberal Party is not suggesting that all of us, from time to time, have chosen inappropriate words. I think what separates one from another is whether or not one can realize when one has made a mistake and can make the appropriate attribution.

[Page 3484]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians expect their political Leaders to be held to a higher standard, and yesterday the MLA for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank caused our province and its people embarrassment. Again to the Premier, if the Premier is unwilling to discipline that member of his caucus, will he at least promise the people of Nova Scotia that that member will no longer be asked to represent the government at public functions?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say to the member opposite and to the people of Nova Scotia is that those of us in elected office are not perfect. From time to time we make mistakes. What is important is whether or not we have learned from our mistakes. In direct answer to your question, that member will continue, on occasion, to represent the government when he is called upon.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

TCH - FESTIVALS/EVENTS: STABILITY - PLANS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. The Clam Harbour Sand Sculpture Competition was in danger of being cancelled this year, because of unexpected policing costs. The province has offered some money, and now the RCMP is reconsidering. So it looks like this competition will be saved for this year. But this event is symbolic of many such festivals that are struggling to survive. I ask the minister, what is his department doing to ensure the stability of local festivals and events in this province?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed, it was this government that introduced the Cultural Activities Program, the first of its kind here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, last year the Lunenburg Wooden Boat Festival was nearly cancelled because organizers couldn't obtain insurance. Liability insurance costs are skyrocketing and the province just increased fees for licenses and permits; meanwhile the volunteer community groups that put these events on together are competing for a shrinking pot of the provincial dollar. My question to the minister is, rural communities rely on these events for much-needed revenue. Where's your commitment to these events and festivals?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed our festivals and our cultural events are vitally important to grow our tourism product here in our province and to emphasize the strong and vast cultures that we do have and I'm pleased to remind the member that the Culture Division's budget increased by 18 per cent this year.

[Page 3485]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, this minister wants Nova Scotians to think his department supports the arts, but he sat by while the Atlantic Theater Festival was forced to cancel its upcoming season, putting 40 people out of work. My question to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage is, how many more cancelled events will it take for this government to finally take action to ensure the long-term stability of rural festivals in this province?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we made a significant investment in the Atlantic Theater Festival as one such example and we'll continue to make strong investments. It is because of the strong investments that this government is making that tourism is up so far this year, 14 per cent over last year.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

AGRIC. & FISH.: AGRAPOINT/DEPT./FED. - RELATIONSHIP

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. AgraPoint was created to provide the agricultural community with services that used to be provided by the Production Technology Branch, which was disbanded by your government. It has become very unclear what the role and mandate is for AgraPoint. My question is, could the minister explain the relationship between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and AgraPoint?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the member opposite has brought this to the attention of this House. The AgraPoint Board was something that was put into place back in early 2001, I believe it was, after the Production Technology Branch was closed. AgraPoint is providing services to farmers in Nova Scotia. There is a relationship between the department, AgraPoint and the federation, that at times is not working out too well, and we're trying to rectify those problems.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, recently the Board of AgraPoint met with the Federation of Agriculture's Council of Leaders to formalize a working relationship. Something went wrong at that meeting. The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture was told to accept the position held by AgraPoint's board, or if they didn't, the $2.2 million in public funds that is presently going to AgraPoint, would be removed from the agriculture industry all together. My question is, is his agency speaking for the minister or is the board of directors acting on their own?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. My commitment to the farming industry is simply this, the $2.2 million will not be taken away from the industry whatsoever.

[Page 3486]

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, since the creation of AgraPoint, they have received $10 million in public money. There are a lot of questions surrounding the effectiveness of this expenditure and whether or not this money may have been better spent in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries extension service program. My question for the minister is, could the minister table in this House documentation that proves that the agricultural community is better served by AgraPoint than they would be by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries extension service program?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite does bring up some good points of what AgraPoint does do. Examples of some of the industry work that they do, they have over 800 farm calls per year, they do the 2004 wild blueberry, raspberry, strawberry insect disease management and schedules, along with a plethora of other things for this province. I would ask the member opposite to bear with me as the relationship will be strengthened.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: EATING DISORDERS - TREATMENT WAIT TIMES

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Medical Association Journal today reports that girls as young as 10 are dieting. A group of Toronto researchers studied more than 2,000 girls, age 10 to 14, and found that while the majority were healthy, nearly one-third were trying to lose weight.

According to Statistics Canada, 13,000 people in Nova Scotia either have, or are at risk of developing an eating disorder. The Department of Health estimates there are 73 to 100 new eating disorder cases a year. Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the Minister of Health is, how do you plan to improve the wait times and treatment that is available for those who suffer with very serious eating disorders?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. That obviously is an ongoing challenge that we need to meet. What I noted of interest with respect to the story the honourable member speaks about is that it is not just the eating disorder difficulties we have in terms of people not eating enough, we also have the other problem of people who are, indeed, eating too much. To find the appropriate balance is quite a challenge, but it is one we will continue to work with, especially in conjunction with the Office of Health Promotion.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, young girls are one of the groups that are most at risk to developing eating disorders. The IWK Eating Disorder Clinic has an accumulated total of three full-time staff and can treat only about 60 young people a year, including patients from other Maritime Provinces. I've been told that the staff there often feel overwhelmed and the need for help seems to be increasing. A day treatment program would

[Page 3487]

provide the services many young people need. My question to the minister is, when can we expect to see such an initiative from your government?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, this is something that we continue to strive to address. Again, it is a challenge relative to resources, but obviously, as the situation warrants we're going to continue to do our best to address it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it would be nice to have a bit more detail from the minister in terms of the concrete action that his department is prepared to take on this matter. The Department of Health's Mental Health Division has detailed the gaps in eating disorder treatment last year in the Province of Nova Scotia. The Canadian Medical Journal study released today stresses that there is a need for prevention efforts even at the elementary school level. My question to the minister is, what are you going to do to expand prevention efforts and eating disorder programs in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I'd refer that question to the Minister of Health Promotion.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very good point and that is healthy eating in our schools and some of the challenges that our young females in our province face. This is an issue we feel very seriously about and we're going to be moving on a number of pilot projects across the province and taking a look at this issue along with the healthy choices that we have in our schools.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: DRINKING WATER - SOURCE PROTECTION

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Department of Environment and Labour put out a press release entitled, Nova Scotia is Model for Safe Drinking Water. The release highlighted the importance of good source protection of drinking water, yet, yesterday I learned that waste contaminated with toluene was almost spread on a field in Colchester County. This waste could have severely affected the water table of neighbouring families. The Department of Environment and Labour had given a local farmer a permit to spread this material just weeks before. My question for the Minister of Environment and Labour is, how can you possibly justify calling Nova Scotia a model of source protection when this kind of thing is happening?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I think the thing that's important to point out here is that nothing did happen. Our testing process and procedures were in place. We ensured that the materials were tested and we found some results which caused us to look into it further.

[Page 3488]

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, the toluene found in the animal waste lagoon in Colchester County should serve as a warning. This is a hazardous waste, its vapour can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, skin and eye irritation, and cause lack of coordination. It can be used to make chemicals and explosives. Residents are now worried about this contaminated site and the possible impact on their water. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, what steps are you going to take to ensure the site is remediated and that the local water supply is not contaminated?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we're taking a look at the situation now. There's certainly an investigation that's ongoing. This is a cleaning solvent that somehow found its way into the product that we're talking about and we want to find out the root cause to ensure that it doesn't happen again, ensure that we have a material that we can use, and make sure that it is safe and that it doesn't contaminate any drinking water for anybody in the surrounding area.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, residents in Colchester County don't feel protected by the Department of Environment and Labour. In fact, they feel threatened. The lagoon contaminated with toluene sits beside two bio-solid lagoons that the department wants to let the farmers spread in spite of the controversy and need for more study. Mr. Minister, what will it take for you to investigate waste practices in lagoon storage in Nova Scotia?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I've dealt with the staff who have been working on this issue and I certainly don't find them threatening in the least. They've been working hand-in-hand with the community in ensuring that proper information and education get out throughout the area. We've been working hard with that community and we will continue to work with the community to make sure that they're aware of all aspects of the operation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

AGRIC. & FISH. - AQUACULTURE: GOV'T. (N.S.) - POSITION

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Although aquaculture had its prosperous beginnings in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia has failed to capitalize on the potential of this industry for our province. Aquaculture in no way is seen as a replacement for our wild fishery, rather it's an integral piece of our coastal resource economy, adding much-needed diversity that strengthens our coastal communities. Nova Scotia needs to grow fish. We have nearly wiped our wild fisheries out trying to feed our growing population on this earth. We cannot depend on the wild fishery any more than we could depend on our buffalo or our wild birds to feed us. My question to the minister is, can you tell this House where the government's support is for this valuable industry?

[Page 3489]

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. I've been waiting since Thursday for this one and I'm quite happy that it has come forward. (Interruptions) Good point. I'm going to agree with the member opposite quite a bit there, that at its peak, the Nova Scotia aquaculture industry was worth approximately $50 million annually. That was in 2000. Unfortunately, the industry has suffered losses every year since and I think we've almost lost about 40 per cent out of that industry.

The member opposite asked why this is happening. Well, there are a number of things happening. One of them has to do with the Environmental Assessment Act, that the federal government does require all aquaculturists to adhere to, which is adding tremendous costs to setting up aquaculture sites. This is where aquaculturists are spending lots of time and where this government is spending lots of time helping them out.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, he's right, to develop enormous potential of aquaculture in Nova Scotia, the industry needs strong support and leadership to overcome such issues as the site access where the burdensome environment assessment process is costing up to $200,000 and taking over three years for approval. This is something that could bankrupt any small business and it does. Why is the government throwing up so many roadblocks and obstacles for this industry that can help the economies of our rural coastal communities?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, at first blush I want to congratulate and thank Leo Muise of our Aquaculture Division, Brian Muise of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, who daily deal with the federal government to try to take these regulations and try to work through them, so it doesn't bankrupt small companies that want to do nothing more than to grow fish.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, in the early 1970s, Nova Scotia was the leader in development of marine aquaculture in North America, now we are last. My question to the minister is, how did we go from a province that was leading the pack in aquaculture to falling behind our regional provincial neighbours? Secondly, why has the province stopped the loan guarantees for the aquaculture industry?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, we have fallen behind other provinces due to some of these problems and these roadblocks put forward by the federal government, the Department of Fisheries.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: It's Ottawa's fault.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Absolutely, in this case it is Ottawa's fault, ladies and gentlemen.

[Page 3490]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - DART. GEN. HOSP.: NURSING HOURS - REDUCTION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is National Nursing Week in Canada, and the theme is, Nursing: Knowledge and Commitment at Work. The nurses at the Dartmouth General Hospital are concerned about the government's commitment to them. A study commissioned by the Capital District Health Authority recommends that nursing hours should be reduced at that facility. I want to quote from a letter written by Janis Ritcey, President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union local at the Dartmouth General Hospital, "An over-crowded emergency room, as well as bed and staffing shortages, place great demands on health care workers and contribute an added burden of stress to those in need of our care. It is our grave concern that patient care will be compromised if we continue down this road."

My question for the Minister of Health is, what response does he have to the concerns raised by the nurses at the Dartmouth General Hospital that nursing hours will be further reduced?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member refers to a study that was done by the Capital District Health Authority, and that is a legitimate effort on their part to ensure that they are using the resources provided to them in the most effective manner possible to deliver health care in the Capital Health District. They, of course, need to work with their staff, in terms of ensuring that the implementation is carried out in an effective manner.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what kind of answer is that for the nurses at the Dartmouth General Hospital? The study that the Dartmouth nurses are talking about was commissioned just this Fall past, by the Capital Health District. The report makes some recommendations about staffing at the Dartmouth General Emergency Room, including, "Staffing to a lower capacity, and then having additional staff available through the use of float pools or a Nursing Resource Team . . ." I will table that report.

Mr. Speaker, the Dartmouth nurses say that they are committed to providing quality patient care, ". . . regardless of how demoralizing this latest cost-saving measure has been. We simply wonder how on earth it can be justified and when will the cuts end?" Will the Minister of Health answer the question the Dartmouth General Hospital nurses raised, and commit to this House that the cuts recommended in the Sanchez Report will not be implemented?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, to suggest that there is an element of cuts involved with respect to the funding of health care in this province is to ignore the fact that we have added $230 million to the Health budget in this province. We added money to the Capital District Health Authority's budget, in addition to all of the salaries that have been

[Page 3491]

accommodated in the budgeting process, there is an additional 7 per cent. I can say that we are continuing to work with the Capital District, with respect to finalizing their business plan.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister can lecture the nurses while they watch their work be casualized and intensified. As we all know, when the critical state of emergency services in the Capital Health region hit the news the government promised more accountability and transparency about health services. I'd like to table the Daily Review of emergency services posted on the Capital Health Web site. For this week, National Nursing Week in Canada, and I want to say to the minister, you will see when you look at that, no data is available. I want to ask the minister today, when nurses are telling him that the cuts that are being implemented in the hospitals are demoralizing them and that patient care is being compromised, is this his idea of accountability, or is it simply a way to hide from the fact that his government's policies are causing over-crowded emergency rooms and staff shortages?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would know, and all honourable members know that we have embarked upon a program to address the emergency services in the Capital District, and the reason that we embarked upon that program and the reason that Capital Health had a plan in place that we were able to implement is because we want to ensure that everyone involved in health care, in particular our nurses are able to employ their skills in a most effective manner. That is always our objective, and we encourage Capital Health to pursue those objectives as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

TREASURY & POLICY BD.:

POLITICAL AIDES - STAFF PERCENTAGE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Chairman of the Treasury and Policy Board. In his testimony before the Public Accounts Committee, this minister's deputy confirmed that out of 28 Treasury and Policy Board staff, eight are political aides. Every minister requires advisers, that's a given but why this minister needs eight in only one of his departments, quite frankly, boggles the mind. There are three policy advisers, one coordinator of special projects, one executive assistant, two special assistants and one acting speech writer, whatever that is.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, will the minister please explain why he finds it necessary to have political aides make up almost 30 per cent of the staff of Treasury and Policy Board?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, and as I've indicated in previous answers in questions in this House, government requires advice from a number of public servants who provide government with information and advice which

[Page 3492]

assists them in carrying out their role as government. That is a function of government, we continue to get advice from well-meaning and well-intentioned public servants who are giving us good advice and serving Nova Scotia well.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the translation of that answer was political spin doctors, that is the translation. Salaries alone for this eight member spin team amount to $387,000. Perhaps the minister hadn't noticed, but the government does have an agency to get its message out, it's called Communications Nova Scotia. The fact that this minister could authorize such an expenditure here at a time when his government is increasing user fees to balance its budget is inexcusable. It doesn't stop there. Over two consecutive years when civil servants were receiving annual increases of 2 per cent or 3 per cent, at least one of the minister's aides received salary increases of 12.4 per cent and 15 per cent.

My first supplementary to the minister is, for the information of Nova Scotia taxpayers, would the minister explain why he feels their money is better spent on his spin team than on things like school maintenance or text books?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member in his question, we receive policy advice at Treasury and Policy Board. That is the function of the Treasury and Policy Board. Communications Nova Scotia provides additional communication support to government, and I'm reminded of a saying by a colleague, from Mr. Stanfield, who said that no politician and no bureaucrat is so wise that they can't take good advice.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately what we are talking about here is political advice at the cost to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. That is what we are talking about. The minister doesn't appear to be taking the matter seriously. That money could have been used for better use, it could have been used to fund 22 subsidized daycare spaces, or three women's centres - with $87,000 in change. Let him ask his constituents if they feel their money is well spent. My final supplementary to the minister is, why does the minister believe that his political interests take precedence over the needs of people who elected him?

MR. BAKER: In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, the minister feels that the interests of his constituents and the people who elect all members of this House are being served by getting good advice. Without good advice, we do not have good policies; without good policies, we don't have good government. That's why we have to have a strong and effective Treasury and Policy Board.

[Page 3493]

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

NAT. RES. - INFESTED WOOD: REMOVAL - PLANS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, a series of brush fires have sprung up across the HRM over the past few days and there were no injuries, luckily, but I think we all have good reason to be worried. Hurricane Juan knocked down more timber than we normally harvest in a year. The quarantine for the brown spruce longhorn beetle has meant that much of the wood within the HRM has not been removed. The province has appealed to the federal government for a flexible approach to the cleanup but we may not have time for the federal government to respond. So my question for the Premier is, what's your short-term plan to ensure that this wood is cleaned up to prevent a potentially devastating situation?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. As he's well aware, this government is working with its counterparts in Ottawa to try to work out a mechanism to have the cleanup. We are alarmed about the potential forest fire danger that there is in the area. That's why we stood our ground and made sure that there were proper burning permits in the HRM district.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer but I think when fires get out of control, it doesn't matter whether you have a permit or not. I want to go on record as thanking the minister for the meeting that I requested last week. He was quite prompt on that. But my fear is that everything that this government does, it winds up being connected to a federal program and there is no great provincial initiative.

Mr. Speaker, last year we watched as forest fires wreaked havoc in British Columbia. Conditions in Nova Scotia are shaping up to be particularly dangerous this year. Considering the huge volume of timber that is down, if we have a dry summer, we could be in for a lot of trouble. The province needs to make cleanup of this material a priority and then worry about marketing second. So my question to the Minister of Natural Resources is, when can we expect a cleanup plan and a harvesting plan from your government?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, this government is being proactive. We're educating people in the hurricane zone to make sure that they're alert of the potential forest fire danger that is out there. We've already put the national forest advisory group on warning that we may need more air service in our area during the peak season and we are working with the federal government and we are being very persistent with the federal government. The Premier will be bringing it up at his meeting with his counterparts in Ottawa, as I am bringing it up with the federal minister.

[Page 3494]

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister is right to take one approach because he is going to need air service if we have fires here, because you're not going to be able to fight these fires on the ground.

Mr. Speaker, The Chronicle-Herald reported today that there were more than 35 small grass and forest fires burning on the weekend and we haven't even hit the dry season yet. So my question to the Premier is, even if the CFIA doesn't designate a mill before fall, the province could still aid in harvesting this wood in preparation for a mill's designation, so what steps do you plan to take this week and when can we expect the cleanup to begin?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is fortunate - or it's circumstantial, I guess - that the member opposite would bring up this important question this afternoon in Question Period, because I actually had a conversation with the Minister of Natural Resources this morning concerning the cleanup and the possibilities of enlisting more federal help in the cleanup. We are very, very aware of the forest fire danger. We are very, very aware as well that we should maximize all of this fibre as effectively as we can. What I can assure the member opposite, as the minister has assured him and I, as well, will assure him that this is very much on the front burner and on our radar screen.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

FIN.: USER FEES - INCREASES

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. At the Public Accounts Committee meeting on May 5th, the Deputy Minister of the Treasury and Policy Board was present to answer questions about user fees. A question was put to him to ask what user fees had increased and by how much since 1999. That question remains unanswered. The figures that I mentioned at that meeting, and quoted, were: $29 million was increased in the year 2000; $35 million in 2001; $26.5 million in 2002; no increases in user fees in the election year, 2003; and now in 2004, $13 million was referenced last Wednesday, as user fee increases. That makes a $103 million increase in annual revenue from user fees in that five-year period. Can you confirm that these user fees have, in fact, been increased by over $100 million, or 100 per cent, since the Tories took power?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what numbers the honourable member is using. She quoted numbers; I can't confirm those numbers. I can confirm that for the budget this year we increased user fees, and we've announced the $13 million. If the honourable member wants to share her arithmetic, I'll have it checked for her.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, we already heard from the Deputy Minister of the Treasury and Policy Board that he would confirm those numbers. The very same numbers were presented then as I presented now. (Interruptions) In fact, I think the minister would agree with me that when a deputy minister comes to the Public Accounts

[Page 3495]

Committee with the subject at hand being user fees that they ought to know how many user fees we had in place in the past, how many increases we've had, and to what magnitude. I think that's a pretty simple question, and I think the Minister of Finance would also have that information available. I think there's no question that it has increased by 100 per cent.

My question relates to the user fee working group that is in place. We were told by the deputy minister that there have been several studies and there's currently a working group in place. My question to the minister is, after one full year of study by this latest working group, why hasn't the user fee working group completed their work, or are they just a political group in search of new dollars for revenue?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the group that she refers to is a group that looks at the different fees, the different services for government. There is quite a number of fees and a number of services the government provides. They have a lot of those to look at. They've been doing a review. They will continue to do a review on those as they go on.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, we see a 100 per cent increase in user fees in five years, no framework to justify user fee increases, and no proof provided that increases are just that and not hidden taxes. With 508 new and increased user fees just announced at the end of March, it looks a lot more like a revenue tax grab. My question for the minister is, wouldn't it have made more sense and had been more honest to do the analysis and be accountable to Nova Scotians rather than grabbing the tax revenue in time for balancing this year's budget?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I've indicated before, in the process of going through a budget, you look at the components that come into it. Once you set your priorities, then you have to look at the different revenues that are coming in, and user fees and those revenues that come in are one of the revenue sources. What we did as a government and what we have done with this budget is deal with the priorities of Nova Scotians, that being health care and education.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TPW: TOLL RD. STUDY - COST

MR. CHARLES PARKER: To the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, in today's Daily News, there's mention that the Department of Transportation and Public Works is allowing the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission to do a study on toll roads. My question to the minister is, how much is this study going to cost, and are you allowing toll roads, by municipalities, in this province?

[Page 3496]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I detected two questions there. In answer to the first one, the Bridge Commission does not come under the Department of Transportation and Public Works. With respect to the second, I've had no request from HRM to look at a toll road running into Burnside.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my topic will be the role of the voluntary sector in Nova Scotia and the challenges that it is currently facing. I am fortunate to have a number of voluntary sector organizations in my constituency of Dartmouth South-Portland Valley, serving both my community and the province. These include: the United Way of Halifax Region; the Community Living Association; Big Brothers Big Sisters; the Nova Scotia and Dartmouth divisions of the Canadian Mental Health Association; Parents Resource Centre; the Fédération des Parents Acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse; Feed Others of Dartmouth; Mic Mac Amateur Aquatic Club; Senobe Canoe Club; the Dartmouth Curling Club; St. George's Tennis Club; church, food and clothing banks; the Eastern Front Theatre; the Dartmouth Community Theatre; the North and South Woodside and Findlay Community Centres; a number of churches and schools, including Home and School Associations and school advisory committees; Thomas Aquinas Centre; Alice Housing; Self-Help Connection; Clean Nova Scotia; the Portland Estates Residents' Association; the Central Dartmouth Neighbourhood Association; Friends of Harbour Green Space; the Dartmouth Community Health Board; a number of service organizations such as Kiwanis Golden K; the Lions Club; the Rotary Club; hospital and nursing home volunteer groups; and the Capital District East Business Commission - and the list could continue.

[Page 3497]

So what is the voluntary sector? This sector includes charitable and non-profit organizations delivering programs and services that are both necessary and add to the quality of life in Nova Scotia. The 2000 National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating indicated that approximately one in every three Nova Scotians volunteered through one of these organizations, giving over 47.2 million hours that year - the equivalent of almost 25,000 jobs. When informal volunteers, those not working through formal organizations or groups, are added to the mix, volunteers contribute the equivalent of $2 billion annually in Nova Scotia.

Supporting this volunteer work is crucial because any decrease would seriously impact on our quality of life. This is a particular concern in a financially strapped province like ours, where it would be very difficult to replace this work with paid or government services. These services support the work of every provincial department and level of government. Examples include: search and rescue; hospital services; palliative and hospice care; seniors' centres and programs; women's and children's support services; programs for people with disabilities; child care; emergency response; mental health programs; alternative transportation; cultural events; wildlife and environmental protection; school programs; recreation and sports; parent resource centres; social and economic development; food banks, clothing and furniture depots; victims' services; and many others. These are not frills or luxury services - these provide the basic necessities of life and help create healthy communities.

Often I get the impression that government and other policy decision makers view the voluntary sector as a drain on the public purse. Ministers and officials often pat themselves on the back for working with their community partners, but treat them as irritating special interest groups. Decisions about funding, planning priorities, governance, program cuts, regulations and interpretations are made without meaningful consultation with the community groups, organizations and agencies that will be directly affected.

[1:45 p.m.]

Government often has the luxury of responding to political and financial pressures by choosing what it wants to do. Other responsibilities are downloaded to communities and families without any prior consultation or provision of the necessary resources for organizations to meet these increased responsibilities. It's assumed that community groups have the interest and infrastructure to take up the slack. It's also assumed that there is a relatively equal and willing playing field across the province to meet both government and community expectations and this is not the case. There are wide differences in the number and kinds of volunteer-led initiatives in different communities. Not all areas can respond to increased needs in a way that provides equity across the province.

What am I hearing from the groups and organizations that I meet with? The most critical problem is the lack of stable funding for the core operations of these groups. Not all voluntary sector organizations rely on government funding. For example, the health charities,

[Page 3498]

like the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia and the Canadian Cancer Society Nova Scotia Division, raise most of their necessary funds through door-to-door canvassing, fundraisers and donations. Many community groups, such as seniors' clubs and regional groups such as service organizations, also raise their own funds, but others, including a significant number of provincial organizations and agencies, do rely on government contracts and grants to cover essential services and programs. In fact, federal Treasury Board officials have stated that approximately 70 per cent of funding from all levels of government comes from the provincial level.

This indicates, Mr. Speaker, the special role our provincial government needs to play in stabilizing the voluntary sector in Nova Scotia. What government funding opportunities are available are usually project based. Katherine Scott has recently published Funding Matters, the Impact of Canada's New Funding Regime on Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations. She identified a number of challenges resulting from the change from core funding to project funding. This was supposedly an attempt by all levels of government over the past 10 years to reduce their financial support to the voluntary sector and to gain more accountability from the sector by using the so-called corporate model. It has resulted in these organizations having to spend more volunteer and staff time and resources on fundraising and less time on serving the public. It has also resulted in volunteer and staff fatigue. Many organizations are struggling to find enough people to serve on boards of directors and fundraising committees. Other unattended results have included a drift from the original mandates of these groups as they chase project funding opportunities using government criteria and government priorities.

Equally as concerning is the intimidation factor whereby groups applying for government project-based funding are less likely to voice the concerns of their clients and beneficiaries. It is a real Catch-22 - holding your hand out while offering constructive criticism. Also not being able to plan for longer than a year at a time is creating a continuous scramble for funding and causing harm to the sector. Other challenges include lack of access to short-term capital funds, a situation that the Alexander Children's Centre finds itself in today.

An increasing number of insurance issues are currently affecting the voluntary sector. These are highlighted in the 2003 publication issued by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, Recreation Nova Scotia, Sport Nova Scotia, the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, and the Canadian Volunteerism Initiative - Nova Scotia Network, entitled Insurance: It's Everybody's Business. These groups have identified several insurance pressures. The first I want to mention is general liability insurance. Some premiums have increased by 100 per cent to 300 per cent and higher, especially affecting volunteer fire departments and active living sports and recreation opportunities. The insurance industry has increased the number of activities it considers high risk or too complex, resulting in groups having to limit or cut programs such as field trips and swimming lessons.

[Page 3499]

Insurers are starting to screen board members by reviewing board members' resumes before determining an organization's final cost for directors' liability. The assumption being that the more capable the insurance company decides the board to be, the lower the premium for directors' liability.

It's also been reported that a homeowner, when renewing personal home insurance, was asked about membership on any nonprofit boards. One can assume that this board participation would influence the rate of house insurance and possibly the home would be considered an asset, should the person be liable as a volunteer. No wonder potential board members are being very cautious about this level of volunteering.

The impacts of the current insurance crisis are serious. We had some experience with higher premiums in the 1980s, so voluntary sector leaders know what to expect: voluntary willingness to fundraise, to cover insurance costs, staff cuts, loss of programs and services, cancellation of festivals and events, which often raise money for several organizations, and the possible closure of some facilities and organizations.

The long-term impact from both the lack of stable core funding and the new insurance pressures, means that governments and communities can no longer assume that the services and programs long provided by volunteers will continue to exist, and these are only a few of the pressures on the voluntary sector in Nova Scotia.

The provincial government has to treat these threats as seriously as it would any other sector of the economy. We're past the stage of band-aid solutions. It's time for the provincial government to work with the voluntary sector, to develop a provincial framework and strategy to safeguard this crucial level of service provision in our province. We can't afford to wait. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, it's certainly a privilege and a pleasure today to rise and speak about some of the issues facing Kings West, also, to talk about some of the good things that are happening in the riding. Certainly, however, as Spring comes to life in Kings West in the beautiful, historic, Annapolis Valley, there is a cloud that hangs over the farming community and, I guess, maybe Kings West in general in that we've had 130 workers lose their jobs at Avon Foods; 11 workers with Atlantic Arbour, one of the companies that was shut out when Emera decided to go to a one-source contract; 20 workers at a printing company in New Minas, where a few of those did live in Kings West; and of course, as of last week, six less teachers who will be in the seven schools that make up Kings West. Those certainly do put cast a little bit of doubt and difficulty in the minds of people in Kings West.

[Page 3500]

That being said, I want to draw attention probably to the big areas that affect any riding: health, education, agriculture, transportation, tourism, fishing and some of our rural issues. In the area of health, I must say over the last couple of months having the opportunity to attend community health board meetings, I've been very impressed with the work that they are doing. In the Berwick community health board, they recently had an evening where they recognized the work of three groups in the community, one of them being the Black Rock Cultural Centre, which just developed a fitness trail along the Bay of Fundy, and it has a short loop and a longer, actually a 20-kilometre, very challenging scenic route. For a very small community, on the North Mountain, this was certainly an endeavour that was very challenging cost-wise and so on for them. Again, like many other organizations, they are faced, now, with a liability issue, because, of course, the trail along the Bay of Fundy does pose some hazards. They're hoping to resolve that with coming under maybe a larger provincial body that will enable them to get reasonable liability insurance.

Also, with the community health board, one of the programs that they have funded, which has really taken on, somewhat, a life of its own is the healthy snacks program in the Somerset school, again a small school, 200 students, that never seems to be at a loss to come up with new initiatives that partner with the community. So what they have done there is initiate, both in the morning when the students arrive at school, at recess and at noontime, a totally healthy nutrition opportunity for the students. Where it is throughout all of the grades, it is starting to catch on to the point where now students, in fact, in their own lunches, are substituting what they would normally take, giving consideration to what Mrs. Morse, who is the principal, would say about what I'm taking to school today. There's a whole change in the culture of that school, in relation to good, healthy snacks.

Also, the community health board in Berwick is funding a seniors' fitness program, and now they're starting to launch forward with a health promotion program on a larger scale that will involve fitness, nutrition, by means of a publicity and publication program. So we have those very good things being done at the ground level through community health boards, both in Berwick and in Kingston, but still, on the larger scene, of course, of health delivery, our area of Kings West comes under difficult constraints, both at the Valley Regional and Soldiers' Memorial Hospitals.

Certainly, again, I would have to highlight some recent work done by Dr. Robertson, Chief of Staff there, who sees that the constraints on acute care beds are now posing difficulties in recruitment. We're talking about specialty services like urology, where, in fact, a doctor who was planning to come to the Valley Regional Hospital to assist in a very important program, since the Annapolis Valley does have the highest age of all parts of the province - our population, you could say, has already reached that critical point where the average age is now at an extremely high level - urology is a very important field to offer, and now this program may not be able to deliver all of the services that they had hoped. This is certainly one of the pressure areas at the Valley Regional Hospital, and again at Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.

[Page 3501]

I think we need to challenge the government to utilize the operating room that has been revamped and renewed as a state-of-the-art facility, but is currently only being used three days a week. To have that facility operating five days with some types of day surgery, and in-patient care that requires surgical procedures or investigative procedures, using the OR would certainly, again, take some of the pressure off the Valley Regional Hospital.

In education, like all parts of the province, there are certainly challenges with funding. Dr. Gunn, this past year, certainly made it known to the government that they have been underfunded now for a considerable number of years and it has finally reached that critical point where delivery of all of the services, and certainly even one of the new initiatives is not without enormous pressure. It is great to see the government moving with the reduction of class size to 25, again, at the Grade 1 level, but now we realize that implementing it may, in fact, be very difficult due to the amount of money available to the board.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow for an introduction?

MR. GLAVINE: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources on an introduction.

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, in the Speaker's Gallery today we have a well-known denturist from the Bridgewater area, Ken Edwards. I ask that the House extend a warm welcome to Mr. Edwards. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guest to the gallery today and hope he enjoys the proceedings.

MR. GLAVINE: So while we have those kinds of challenges with funding with AVRSB, I would certainly like today to have a balanced perspective. It is interesting that in all of the schools in Kings West, there are indeed events to celebrate that have been going on. I would just like to go through a few of those schools. The Dwight Ross School recently received a provincial environmental award through the waste-recovery fund for, first of all, becoming a "green school", early in the year, and with the way they have been able to reduce waste on a daily basis in that school. So to get that kind of achievement for a small elementary school is certainly noteworthy.

In Pine Ridge Middle School, a teacher there, who will be retiring this year, had his last cultural evening celebrating the Gaelic culture. Six years ago there was no such program in the school and Don Hyslop introduced an evening to celebrate Gaelic culture, music, language, and this year he had what was called the Last Gathering, because for him it will be

[Page 3502]

the last such event that he will orchestrate. It has brought to our community a discovery of the rich Scottish heritage that is local - plus one of the benefits of the annual concert that they hold there is also to invite people from around the province who are able to provide Gaelic music and, in fact, I should point out that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, the Honourable Rodney MacDonald, was one of the people who helped in the very early years of this particular festival. So this cultural event in the community has grown and one of the real beneficiaries of this event is the heritage village in Iona, I believe, and they have raised over $4,000 through a small little community music and cultural evening for that endeavour.

At the school where I taught for 25 years, the school just put on their annual production, drama or musical - usually alternating - and it was great to see former Principal Vic Fleury come back and lead the students in another outstanding production this year of Agatha Christie's murder/mystery "The Mousetrap", which again was an outstanding production in our school.

So our schools continue to provide really outstanding extras, I guess, to the curriculum. Somerset School, which I mentioned just a few moments ago, has a pilot project with the federal Justice Department and they've involved a number of partners from the community in delivering this, working towards a more peaceful school, and on June 3rd they will have a celebration of some of the achievements with the release of a video showing the development of student leadership in this particular program.

I would also point out that the schools I have just mentioned, plus all seven in the riding, had some outstanding performances in the regional science fair and a number went on to represent their schools at the provincial science fair held recently at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

This has been a very, very challenging year in the riding for agriculture. We have had the BSE crisis, the downturn in the pork industry prices, the closure of Avon Foods. These had a tremendous negative impact, but in the midst of all that, we have had a couple of bright spots. I think it's important to note those as well. During the BSE crisis, a very small slaughterhouse, Bowlby Meats, accepted the challenge to promote Nova Scotia grown beef as a healthy alternative since it is almost an organic product. His kill of 10 animals a week rose to about 30 with just the promotion of the Nova Scotia brand product so I'd like to commend that business for that endeavour. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, indeed, it's a pleasure for me to rise in the House today and take some moments to speak about some of the issues and more importantly, some of the positive things that are happening within Cape Breton and more specifically, within the great community and constituency of Cape Breton North that I'm so proud to represent. The communities of North Sydney, Sydney Mines, Florence, Little Pond,

[Page 3503]

Alder Point, Point Aconi and Little Bras d'Or all have a collective spirit that is enhancing and building upon a base that has been provided by our forefathers and mothers - that is providing us with the spirit and gives us the integrity and the know-how to move forward through the challenges and the changes that we face yet again today.

Those challenges and changes are not new to Cape Breton - they've been part of our history. What Cape Bretoners do know about is turning adversity to opportunity and making the most of a challenge before us. In our area in Cape Breton, we do have problems, we do have challenges, but they're all part of a reality that this government has been responding to and putting forth the real numbers to the real challenges we have and putting perspective on some of the challenges and the problems that other people would highlight as being in chaos and crises in the region.

I do accept that we do have problems and challenges and I do accept that government has a role to play in facilitating change and opportunities. But, when you look at what's happening just within Cape Breton North in my constituency alone, when you look at the community spirit and you see the community revitalization efforts that have been ongoing for the past number of years, it didn't take anyone to identify the problem, it took those in the community to recognize what the problem was and to put a solution and plan forward to address those.

It's been a phase at a time, an opportunity at a time and it has all been matched by government funding from all three levels to do that. We see new economic opportunities alone in the Northside Industrial Park - just recently, an announcement of up to 100 new jobs at Cape Breton Castings. Cape Breton Castings that will be supplying Tesma - a quality employer in the Northside Industrial Park, supplying them with product but more importantly, with individuals from Cape Breton that are growing our capacity of a cluster in advanced manufacturing. Growing our ability to stabilize and build on infrastructure in that park - it too went through challenging times. When that park was established, there were plants that were put in place and indeed some of those weren't successful.

But, because that infrastructure was there and is there, new opportunities are being realized today because of it. It's not being realized because people are sitting back and asking someone else to fix the problem, it's about local companies and business people with vision and those elsewhere that see the potential that Cape Breton has to offer, sees the value and knows the value of Cape Breton workers and the competitiveness that we have to operate not only nationally, but internationally and to prove a business case and advance it, not only for Cape Breton but indeed to strengthen the Nova Scotia business case, and that's something I've been pleased and very proud to be part of.

In the last little while we've had some debate about what the realities are within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. While I represent an area that is a significant portion of that on the Northside, one that is obviously doing things contrary to some of the perception

[Page 3504]

that's being put out there, and one that indeed will continue to move forward this year as this government moves ahead, so, too, will my community continue to advance in the efforts for more economic diversification and rebuilding of our economy and repositioning for a stronger future. That is being done in the face of some of the adversity and the negativity that is being projected within the CBRM.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I was wondering if the honourable Minister of Energy would entertain a very short question?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy, will you entertain a question?

MR. CLARKE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will on behalf of the good member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, a recent meeting I had with Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation officials, it was revealed that officials from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality issued a letter indicating that they had no desire whatsoever to participate in the Cape Breton Growth Fund and the economic activities related to this initiative. Is the minister aware of that, and what's his feeling on this particular issue?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, his question is very timely because I was moving in that general direction of where we are responding to some of the statements that have been made within the CBRM with regard to this government's participation. As the member was indicating yesterday during an opportunity in this House, he provided some of his perspective about what this government was or wasn't doing but also the scenario within the CBRM and how council is responding to some of the issues. He did highlight something that I do agree with. He did highlight that this government is able to work with the Government of Canada, to invest in the Cape Breton Growth Fund, a one of a kind investment fund in the country as a result of our two governments coming together. He did say that it's ironic, or at least noting the fact that the CBRM is having difficulty working with its neighbouring communities that in eastern Nova Scotia are all working together, and you'll look at what's happening in the Strait area, you'll look at the positive momentum they're building in contrast to some of those opinions.

When you look at bureaucrats and civil servants able to work together, when you see business in the community coming together, whether that's the Chamber of Commerce or individual proponents working with all these other people, there is a common thread here and that is there's a criticism of every other level and participant except to look at the municipality itself. That common thread at some point has to come back to the council chamber and the accountability that they have to the very citizens that we too represent. Our citizens do expect

[Page 3505]

more of us and demand of us and as the member will get up and say, wherever his differences are with our perspectives.

I also noted where he was talking to me about that the fact that if you look at the investment we have made to the growth fund, versus those monies that we put into Sydney Steel in the past to cover operating deficits, and the losses that were being suffered, this government recognized that, but he did say that our investment in that was less now than what we actually subsidized before. There's another reality, Mr. Speaker. Since this government has come to office, there is more money in health care, there is more money in education, there is more money in roads, and indeed we have invested in economic development and diversification in the region. Is there more that can be done? Yes, there is. Will we do more? Yes, we will, and we do it in concert with those that have and share a common vision and understanding that compromise is the basis upon which the political momentum and movement is achieved, not dictating what other levels of government should or shouldn't be doing to facilitate a demand, not just talking about need, but a demand within the CBRM.

I know other colleagues in this House, it's kind of ironic, Mr. Speaker, that other people would - and the Leader of the Opposition allows me an opportunity as well, to refer to the fact that other members of this Legislature have been told by certain members of council that if they don't defeat this government's budget, that they're betraying or turning their backs on the CBRM.

The members in this House have tough decisions to make and one of those decisions is, is this government the balance necessary for Nova Scotia to receive the benefit of the resources we have available to us. I think everyone has strived to do that. In recent commentary, the member, the good Leader of the Official Opposition was referred to as a kinder, gentler version of Cecil Clarke, well I think we'll both take a compliment in that maybe. (Laughter) Obviously his answer at that time must not have been reflective of the request because what it has been is my standing up in my community and dealing with the straight goods and dealing with reality. Sometimes the answer has to be no and sometimes that answer can be yes, but what we do provide is clarity. It's not always accepted that it is the wanted or desired response of municipality, no different as you heard in Question Period today, our concern as the Province of Nova Scotia with the Government of Canada on the basis of fairness and equity between our relationship with that Government of Canada, but this province is not going out and threatening to sue the Government of Canada on an issue by issue, or collective, about our benefits.

[2:15 p.m.]

This province, through our ministers and through our Premier, is working in our respective roles, whether it's the Premiers of this nation, whether it's the First Ministers' Conference, to deal with the deficiencies and the shortcomings that we have as a province and

[Page 3506]

to address those issues that we want all Nova Scotians to benefit from and to have addressed for the mutual benefit of this province. So we do work, but we also work within the context of reality and the numbers we know.

Within the CBRM, what we do know with our numbers that have been asked, that we see a total expenditure, including debt servicing related costs, of over $858 million within the CBRM. Some people have questions with clarity around those numbers and this government is working towards that, but what we don't do as a government in providing services is divide it by 55 municipalities. We provide services and programs for an entire province and we don't isolate one region against another because the very benefits that we're seeing in the CBRM, when you consider the direct contributions alone for the Department of Health of over $280 million within the CBRM, you could isolate that - and by the way it's a very positive number for health delivery services - but you have to take into context the number of Cape Bretoners who received benefit for medical services, whether it's in the Capital District, whether it's at St. Martha's in Antigonish, because we have other benefits that we derive by being a province and being part of the great Province of Nova Scotia.

We who live in the CBRM do want to be a full and equal partner in the Province of Nova Scotia, but we do it by recognizing the other input we get. For instance, just a prime example last year, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works had finalized a commitment for $15 million on rebuilding the deck of the Seal Island Bridge. Well, that's in Victoria County, not the CBRM, but I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, the people in the CBRM are benefiting from that investment, no different than over $11 million in the twinning of the highway and the completion from Northside to Sydney, no different than the investments we're doing for the jobs that are being created, and no different from our ongoing commitment to take the resources, and those scarce resources that we have, and apply them fairly throughout this province.

We've listened to small business. We've responded by working with the credit union movement on a loan program. We are seeing and supporting community economic development investment funds so that communities that are responding to deal with their economic issues and seeing, more importantly, addressing the opportunities before them, have a vehicle and a mechanism where the province can help facilitate positive growth and outcomes.

Mr. Speaker, the CBRM and the citizens who are within it are all participating on these many positive things and are all part of doing that. When I look at the response we had from the user's group when we had the railway issue in Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, people came together. They recognized the problem and they wanted some solutions applied to it, but they wanted to look at the business case, and we continue to work in advance on that and we continue to look at new opportunities to grow a long-term business case and solution for the railway - no different than we're working with those who are investing in Sydport, through Laurentian Energy, to create new opportunities, both in the Sydney area, if you look

[Page 3507]

at the Gardner Pinfold study that looked at offshore opportunities and saw the Sydney area as marine services and fabrication versus those of the Strait Area for supply-based opportunities.

The two regions can work collectively and collaboratively for their own mutual benefit, Mr. Speaker, and that is what is happening outside of any of the other banter amongst politicians or levels of government. What's also happening is people are building the business case, whether it's for the Sydney Airport and the airport authority to maintain the services that are in place there, to the flight services station, and what we also see is that the collective efforts of contributors, of citizens, of citizens who take the obligation and the responsibility and the accountability for their actions and indeed for their efforts to make a better community, and while we'll have continuing debate, and I will too within my own community as the only government representative within the CBRM, I will fight that good fight, I will have the good debate, because I know that the efforts of this government are sincere, they're worthwhile and they are meaningful to the people of Cape Breton and one that we will not detract from and one we will continue to invest in the good people of CBRM.

This government will stand up, and I, as a member of this government, will stand up in this Chamber and be accountable to the New Democratic Party, to the Liberal Party for my decisions and actions as a member of this government in Cape Breton, no differently than they're being asked to be accountable right now by members of the CBRM for what their decisions may be, potentially, later in the day.

Mr. Speaker, it's all about balance and it's about focus. I don't think any Party in this Legislature would say that they don't have a balanced view of Nova Scotia and a fair view of all regions within this province, something that we're committed to. We continue our effort and our focus around that. We'll continue to see new dollars invested. It's important for the House to note as well that when you look at our investment that we have, of the $858 million to the CBRM, that 12 per cent of the population gets 14 per cent of Nova Scotia's total budget that's allocated outside of other services and complementary services and those that are partnered.

Mr. Speaker, there is a positive relationship. It's one that will continue to build, past the challenge of the day, and one that I will not deter in my focus and efforts to work positively and collaboratively wherever possible. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:22 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. James DeWolfe in the Chair.]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

[Page 3508]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

VLT PLEBISCITE: GOV'T. (N.S.) - ALLOW

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, tonight's subject for late debate is the resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that government allows for a plebiscite on the elimination of VLTs as was once called for by the member for Kings North."

In preparation for speaking a few minutes tonight on this, I've reviewed some of the things that had led to the member for Kings North raising this issue and some of the things that he said as a result. This had occurred just after our last election in August 2003. The member for Kings North came out very strongly in support of a plebiscite for VLTs and also asking his government if they would do a proper study on the social costs of gambling because it had gone up significantly, particularly VLTs. I think when we're having this discussion that it's important - gambling and VLTs are two very different things in Nova Scotia.

The VLTs have really created a lot of social problems, and just as an indicator of that - our gambling help line in Nova Scotia, 92 per cent of the calls that come in are strictly related to VLT use. So I think that gives a very good barometer of how serious the problem is for VLT usage as compared to other forms of gambling. What had happened in the year 2001-02, the revenue from VLTs had increased by a tremendous amount, in fact, $100 million more was bet in Nova Scotia at VLTs in that year. New machines had been introduced that year which had what were supposed to be less-addictive features in them. The fact that these less-addictive features had actually led to a surge in gambling was something that had to be questioned, and the member for Kings North brought that forward.

In fact, the Gaming Corporation that's responsible for the operation of the VLTs said that this was the result of the novelty of the machines. But it was a tremendous cost to pay for the novelty of machines, if that was the amount of increased gambling. What comes out loud and clear in all of the research is that the more that you put these features on or make them attractive, the more people are gambling and the higher the social cost that we experience.

That's really the question here tonight, how significant is the social cost and how much does it - if in fact it does - outweigh the actual revenue that we take in? I speak here tonight from a unique vantage because I'm both my Party's Finance Critic and the Gaming

[Page 3509]

Critic. So I'm very well aware of the dependence that we have as a small province with financial difficulties. We have a tremendous dependence on the revenue that we get from gaming. In fact, we get as much from gaming as we do from the Liquor Corporation. It's risen significantly.

Just by way of history, in 1991, when VLTs were first introduced, they provided $30 million in revenue for this province; by the year 2001-02, it had gone up to $115 million, that's VLTs alone; and the next year, $118 million in revenue to the Province of Nova Scotia. We know that there's a strong revenue factor here and that the province is very dependent upon that income. Obviously, it's used for many programs and directed to important things that Nova Scotians need, but the question is, are there other costs direct and hidden that far outweigh the $118 million that we saw in our revenues for VLTs?

If that's the case, then we need to understand it better and we need to deal with the fact that there are health and social and many other costs. Some of the research I've been reading, of course, talks about suicides, about bankruptcies, about divorces, children and families in crisis, certainly financial bankruptcy, as I mentioned, theft and embezzlement and people in desperate straits to get more money, so they turn to crime. So the costs that we suffer then are through our criminal system, through Community Services, through our courts, and they are many and varied. There's been no study done to really come to terms with how widespread they are and just how damaging this is within our society.

I think it's clear to say that right across Canada people have a real disquiet with VLTs. Some of the studies done have shown that certainly a majority of Canadians are interested in seeing VLTs restricted to casinos or gambling-specific locations. A study recently, I think it was the Canada West Foundation, said 70 per cent of Canadians favoured having VLTs out of bars and restaurants. Now I realize that's just not gauging it here in Nova Scotia, but I think it gives us a pretty clear sense of how Canadians feel. Also, a majority of Canadians have said in surveys that they feel there's a clear connection between criminal activity and gambling.

So there's a disquiet, I think, a lack of calm with VLTs in particular. From my own personal experience as an MLA in this city, I don't feel there is as much concern, it's almost imperceptible, any concern about having a casino in Halifax or even the Atlantic Lottery ticket sales - there's no concern about that. The uproar and the concern people have is with video lottery terminals, and I think it's very clear why, when you actually see a lot of the studies that are being done in other locations.

I wanted to mention some of the other locales - a lot of them are in the United States - that are looking at banning, or have, in fact, banned VLTs completely. Just a few that we found in some quick research was that, in 1999, Louisiana voted to end their gambling experiment, as they called it. They went ahead to remove 4,683 video poker machines in that state. Even Las Vegas, the Mayor of Las Vegas moved to remove VLTs from neighbourhood

[Page 3510]

locations, even though it's a gambling mecca for around the world - people go there, it's probably the gambling capital of the world, and yet they recognize that in their neighbourhoods and in the communities where the residents of Las Vegas live this was having a negative effect on families and on social stability. As a result, even Las Vegas had looked to restrict the locations where VLTs were available.

Another state is South Carolina which also, in 1999 and through to 2000, took out 34,000 VLTs from that state and took them completely out of bars and restaurants; in fact I think they were more widely spread in that state - but, 34,000. Here in Nova Scotia we have less than 4,000 machines off reserves. We have about 3,400 in total and then another 600 that are on our Native reserves.

I think that it's really important to note that other places have made this dramatic move and they've done it because of public support through plebiscites, telling the Legislatures and the lawmakers that it's time to look at this, that the social costs far outweigh any benefit that can be had by continuing to be involved in gaming as a jurisdiction. I think that we need to look very strongly at that here and let Nova Scotians speak up as well and tell us what they feel. As you know, the same question was put in New Brunswick just a few years ago, they asked the very same question. The question was very simple: Should the Province of New Brunswick continue to permit the legal and regulated operation of video gaming devices (commonly known as video lottery terminals or VLTs)? So it was very simple, there was a very heated debate in New Brunswick and the final outcome did favour keeping VLTs in the province, but by a very narrow margin.

It's worth noting in all the states, as well, that have had these plebiscites that they tend to be very close margins. That's because the people who have an interest in VLT operations tend to get very involved in the debate and I think they're often very active in funding advertising to the affirmative to support the continuation of VLTs. My thought is that, again, the idea of eliminating them is not to take them out entirely from the province, but to restrict them to our casinos or to specific locations that are gaming destinations so that really those destinations, they do support our tourism, which was a big part of why casinos were asked for in the first place, and they've become more of an entertainment destination rather than a place in our own neighbourhoods that can actually be a temptation for people with addictions.

There is no question that we have significant addictions in the province. The estimates vary - I think it was 2 per cent to 4 per cent of Nova Scotians would have that kind of an addiction. We know that the cost is great, often they're cross-addictions, so they have addictions to other substances as well. That's a high percentage of our population and if in fact the cost is as high as $50,000 per person to help those people with addictions, we're looking at a tremendously high cost that's buried in our health system, in the mental health services, in our community and corrections systems. We don't even know it, so it's time to have a close look at what the cost is for VLT gaming, and also to look at a plebiscite to allow people to speak out. I think my time is up. Thank you.

[Page 3511]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: I want to thank the member for Halifax Clayton Park and the Liberal caucus for bringing forth this resolution, although I noticed that in her comments she was already changing the resolution from eliminating VLTs and banning them to restricting them, which is a different resolution. But taking the resolution that was put forward, I would like to speak to it. The naming of a member, I found in my few years here, in a resolution is usually an attempt to embarrass the member, or at least to hoist him on his own petard, and I realize that that's some of the motivation here, but I am not embarrassed in the least.

I'm grateful for any focus on excessive gambling as a social problem because I believe it is a social problem. I believe that excessive gambling is, in fact, a social cancer and VLTs, in particular, are called the crack cocaine of gambling. I became involved, in 2003 I didn't call for the elimination, but in 1998 I did when a friend of mine, who's involved with addiction counselling, whom I had gone to divinity school with, came to me in despair because although he's supposed to be involved with counselling for alcoholics, he found himself overwhelmed by the need to counsel those with gambling addictions and it wasn't being recognized and no support was being given to it at that time.

I believe it's a social cancer, as I say, excessive gambling is, because it by and large preys on those who are suffering from an illness, those who are suffering from addiction. There's a prevalent study due out and I'm looking forward to seeing what it will reveal, but I imagine it will reveal what has been revealed in other studies, Mr. Speaker, across North America and that is, particularly with VLTs, that the vast majority of funds raised are raised by those who are problem gamblers, those are the ones who are putting the money in, that it is not, as is commonly perceived, some benign form of entertainment with the few people popping in $1 here or there, but the vast majority of money. We don't know this for sure, but I think we'll find this when the prevalent study comes out because this is what other jurisdictions have found. So it preys on those who suffer from an addiction, suffer from an illness.

Secondly, it undermines the work ethic. Now, to be fair, the work ethic seems to be undermined by Enron, excessive CEO salaries, and the salaries of athletes who make millions of dollars for batting little balls around parks, but I worry about this, Mr. Speaker, very much. If this province is to be strong, we need a work ethic, and we have one, but we need to strengthen that. We need people who are willing to take the time to put work into something, and the culture of gambling undermines that ethic. It creates an ethic of get rich quick without any work.

[Page 3512]

It runs absolutely contrary, Mr. Speaker, to what I believe is a fundamental pillar of the Tory Party that I belong to and that is that work brings pride, a sense of self-respect, a contribution to the larger community as a whole, and that is good. This ethic of get rich quick without doing any work runs absolutely counter to that and I really think that this philosophy is something that we need to get to terms with, we need to somehow turn around.

Thirdly, it's a national problem. In the 1970s when provincial governments were given the authority to regulate gambling in their various provinces, it coincided, Mr. Speaker, with a withdrawal of federal money from areas of equalization payments, roughly about $6 billion over about a 15-year period, and so the provinces across Canada turned to gambling revenues as a way of making up that money. We see it in all the political Parties. The Province of Saskatchewan, for example, run by an NDP Government, has been as aggressive in trying to get gambling revenue as has any other province. Provinces dominated by Liberal Governments, Progressive Conservative Governments, NDP Governments, it doesn't matter, it's a national problem.

The resolution is about a plebiscite on the elimination of VLTs and, as I mentioned, in 2003 I changed my opinion somewhat from what 1998 was and the reason why is the experience which the honourable member has mentioned about New Brunswick. In New Brunswick there was a plebiscite held on VLTs and it failed. It failed narrowly. The reasons the honourable member gave may have been some of the reasons why there was an imbalance in terms of the two sides who had the more money to throw at the issue, but it failed and once it failed, it really helped to cement the establishment of VLTs in that province. So I'm not sure the timing is right to have a plebiscite. I would like to win, I've run in two elections, and I've won both of them, thankfully, thanks to a lot of help and I like to win. I don't want a plebiscite until the time is right and I'm sort of like the members from the Province of Quebec. In this regard, Mr. Speaker, I think that the problem with excessive gambling is similar to the problem that we saw with smoking and with second-hand smoke. It took many, many years before we began to realize what problems this was causing to people's health and what the costs were to society. I think in some way we're still in the infancy and realizing that in terms of the effect of excessive problem gambling on the Province of Nova Scotia.

[6:15 p.m.]

So there is a prior step needed and that step is to get all the relevant statistics about who is gambling, what age, what gender, what economic background, what status, where, when, what times of the day, all those sorts of data. A government to make good policy, Mr. Speaker, needs good information. We don't have all the information that we need. Whenever I ask these questions, for example, the information about those who commit suicide due to gambling addictions, those are statistics that are important, those are statistics we've been promised are going to be coming and those are statistics we need to set good policy on gambling.

[Page 3513]

Then we need, as a province, to set a gambling policy, or gaming policy if you want to use the tamer word for it. I understand there is no province in Canada, Mr. Speaker, that has a gaming policy or a gambling policy. As Chairman of the Cabinet subcommittee on social affairs, which oversees education, health, human resources, community services and health promotion, I've been part of discussions about such a policy and there are some very interesting discussions going on and I think it has been indicated in the press that there will be a policy coming out fairly soon on this issue.

There have been advances that we have made before this policy, Mr. Speaker. I want to share some of those with you, VLT responsible gaming retailer training, which began in 1999, over 1,000 bar owners have taken part in this. Ticket lottery, responsible gaming retailer training, which began in March 2004. Responsible Gaming Awareness Week, we've held two, the third one is going to be held this October. A full time manager for responsible gaming at the corporation since May 2002. An increased awareness and information at the point of sale, with brochures, Help Line numbers, et cetera. A responsible gaming orientation for NSGC staff and the staff at Atlantic Lottery and Casino Nova Scotia. Some preliminary work - VLT self-exclusion program. Testing of enhanced RGFs on VLTs, the pilot study on the South Shore was mentioned, I think, by the speaker, and other things.

These are important steps that have been taken. They are, in my opinion, the first step but they're very important steps. They're far more than any previous Party has done in this province. I think that this government has moved as aggressively as any government has done in the history of Nova Scotia to try and come to some terms with the problem of addictive gambling.

But what we need, more than anything, is a very comprehensive policy on gambling. We are working on that, as I said, as a province. I understand that we're leaders across Canada in that, that other provinces are looking to us to see what we're going to do about this and what sort of model we can come up with that will be of help to the citizens of our province, because ultimately that's what it's all about.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that gambling has been part of humanity since probably humanity started. As a religious minister the classic case that comes to mind is where when Christ was being crucified, they gambled for his cloak. So we're not going to get rid of gambling but we need to somehow set parameters so that our citizens are not disadvantaged and not hurt. I think we're moving in that direction because of the items that I have just listed, very important items but the most important one still is this comprehensive gambling or gaming policy that we're going to be coming out with, which will be the first of its kind, I understand, in Canada and put us, as leaders, in this.

I want to thank the members in this House who have been pushing for this. I'm sure there will be a lot more to say about it once it's unveiled. But I think it's important that we're taking this step and I think it's a very, very important step.

[Page 3514]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to have the moment of interruption to speak on the resolution of: Therefore be it resolved that the government allow opportunity during this moment of interruption to speak on the resolution. "Therefore be it resolved that government allows for a plebiscite on the elimination of VLTs as was once called for by the member for Kings North."

I think it's a matter of calling for a plebiscite anyway whether it was once called for by the member for Kings North or not, Mr. Speaker. We need to go back to why we even have video lottery gambling in the Province of Nova Scotia. The government's contention and argument all along has been that these games were illegal, there was illegal gambling taking place throughout the entire province, these grey machines were being held in corner stores, in backrooms, by associations and organizations, and there was absolutely no control over them. Rather than take the full force of the law to address the issue of those who were engaged in illegal gambling in the Province of Nova Scotia and enticing people to be involved in that illegal gambling, the most important thing is the government should have come down with the full force of the law and made sure that the penalty was so severe that people would not be involved in gambling.

Mr. Speaker, that would have been the crunch and that would have been the stop of having video lottery terminals in the Province of Nova Scotia. However, the government's argument and contention were to bring them in because somehow they would be able to manage. There would be the legalization of video lottery terminals and they would be able to control the money, and they would be able to dispense with educational programs, treatment programs and the like.

What happened, Mr. Speaker, is that the video lottery machines came in under Donnie Cameron and, as a matter of fact, they became located in local family corner stores. There wasn't a corner store in Nova Scotia that you couldn't enter where you could see a senior or some young people playing a video lottery machine. People using their last penny to buy a loaf of bread were putting it into the video lottery machine to take a chance on winning and maybe getting three loaves of bread. That's the kind of gambling that took place. Then, when the Liberal Government came to power in 1993, they had the good graces to recognize the kind of havoc and problem that was being played out there in the communities by video lottery machines being located in corner stores. So they, in fact, moved them into licensed establishments, be it non-profit, be it bars and taverns and Legions, the like, they put them in those particular stores.

At least, Mr. Speaker, there was some control over who entered. At least now young people, people under the ages of 18 years of age could not enter those establishments to gamble. So they weren't taking money out of their family purses and so on and going into the local community stores to gamble, now the money was being spent in the bars and taverns.

[Page 3515]

It became such an abusive way of trying to get rich that people were taking advantage and spending numerous dollars that they didn't even have. As a matter of fact that is when the addictions came into effect.

Today the Department of Health, Mr. Speaker, says that there are some 6,400 Nova Scotians who are problem gamblers. Does that require a plebiscite? Does that require something to be looked at? You can bet you - 6,400, I will tell you, problem gamblers according to the Department of Health statistics. That's in the report if you're going to be attending the - so tomorrow morning, that's in the report.

I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that, in itself, sends a signal. We don't even know what the level of problem gambling is because the Gaming Foundation finds it very convenient to do marketing analysis, to do promotional skills on how to drain the money from people, but it doesn't do any assessment or evaluation on those individuals in the province who it happens to. It cannot tell you how many people who may, in fact, have committed suicide as a result of gambling; the Gaming Corporation can't tell you that. They can't tell you how many people have lost their homes or valued assets and the whole gamut as a result of gambling. They don't keep those records, nor are they interested in it. It was only through my opportunity, thanks to member for Halifax Fairview, who gave me the opportunity to make those kinds of contacts with the Gaming Corporation through the Department of Finance meetings that we were able to discover these sorts of things.

That's the kind of thing that happens when you have no control and you don't care because your prime objective is to generate revenue not only for your corporation, but revenue that the government says that the government must have to deliver such programs as - can you get a load of this? - health, education, transportation, all out of money that comes from gambling. Can you imagine? What have we become? That is the question.

Mr. Speaker, that is where we need to go back and take a look. That's the avenue that we need to take, the chance. The honourable member is quite right, I can assure you there was never a study or any intent to have a study on any comprehensiveness with respect to problem gambling in this province. I credit myself and the NDP for bringing that forward. We were the ones who challenged the government that every minister in that government was questioned by the media - Health, Finance, Education, Justice - almost every minister was questioned with respect to that. That's the reason why they recognize that there is a real need for a comprehensive study.

I do want to acknowledge the member for Kings North for serving on the social committee of the Party. I had not realized that there was such a social committee of the Party, but there is and I will say that I am honoured by the fact that the member for Kings North, a member of the cloth, is on that social committee, because I believe there will be at least some social conscience within the political Party over on that side of the floor with respect to addressing this issue.

[Page 3516]

The other thing is, Mr. Speaker, tomorrow there cannot be a plebiscite, because there is no formal information on how you craft the language to put that plebiscite out to the people. Unlike New Brunswick, we don't want it to happen, where the vendors and the operators who, in fact, were bringing in the money became the kingpins of determining the outcome of that plebiscite. That cannot and should not be allowed to happen. There must be a level playing field. There can be no imbalance when you are looking at a social issue such as gambling.

The other component is that we can do some plebiscites, and we can do it in a real and sensible way. Do you know that the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation and the Liquor Licensing Board, before it licenses an establishment, puts an advertisement in the paper. It also sends a notice out to the municipalities. It asks those municipalities for input on whether the citizens are concerned about the licensed establishment in their community, and they give citizens input. These citizens can determine whether or not they want that establishment in their community.

The same thing most recently happened with adult video businesses. If you don't know - and I do know that the honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park is very much aware that these issues come before the Halifax Regional Municipality, and that a municipality can be engaged and its citizens can be engaged with respect to whether they want those facilities in their neighbourhood. If they don't meet the zoning requirements and so on, if they don't fit, they are not going in.

We can start this process tomorrow with respect to allowing communities where, in fact, video lottery machines are going to be established to have at least a plebiscite on them, Mr. Speaker. That's the minor start. The end of the road and a long way down, can be because it's a short time before the next municipal election, and it would be unfair to bring this cap in hand with Sunday shopping. I think it would then be skewed and there wouldn't be any real acknowledgment of what the outcome would be of the video lottery gambling.

I want to tell you, that that has to come, there has to be a day in which that plebiscite will come forward. I know that the member for Halifax Citadel asked the Minister of Finance with respect to his responsibility to call a plebiscite and there was actually no response. I will say, in the short term and to that government over there, and to the member of the social committee over there as well, that there are avenues which we can start to tinker with, and bring in a way of reducing or eliminating video lottery machines. I wish I had some more time to talk on the moratorium, Mr. Speaker, because the unfortunate part of it is I could spend a whole hour on the moratorium alone . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the late debate has expired. The House will now resolve itself into the committee. Thank you.

[Page 3517]

[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Russell MacKinnon in the Chair.]

[6:55 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered all estimates referred to it and the chairman has been instructed to recommend them to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is the House concurs with the report of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

Would all those in favour of the motion, please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 78 - Entitled an Act to Provide for Defraying Certain Charges and Expenses of the Public Service of the Province. (Hon. Peter Christie)

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the bill has been printed and the Clerks have distributed it. I move second reading of the bill, the Appropriations Act, 2004.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance moves second reading of Bill No. 78, the Appropriations Act, 2004.

A recorded vote has been called for.

Ring the bells to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[Page 3518]

[6:57 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are the Whips satisfied?

The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 78, the Appropriations Act, 2004. The Clerk will call the roll. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[7:23 p.m.]

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Clarke Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. Morse Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Ms. Whalen

Mr. Russell Mr. Colwell

Mr. Hamm Mr. Glavine

Mr. Baker Mr. Gerald Sampson

Mr. Muir Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)

Mr. Christie Mr. Michel Samson

Mr. Fage Mr. Theriault

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. McNeil

Ms. Bolivar-Getson

Mr. D'Entremont

Mr. Hurlburt

Mr. Barnet

Mr. Morash

Mr. Dooks

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Taylor

Mr. Chisholm

Mr. Langille

Mr. Hines

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Parent

Ms. Massey

Mr. MacDonell

Mr. Corbett

[Page 3519]

Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Mr. Dexter

Mr. Deveaux

Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Steele

Ms. More

Mr. Parker

Ms. Raymond

Mr. Epstein

Mr. Pye

Mr. Gosse

Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid)

Mr. Estabrooks

THE CLERK: For, 40. Against, 10.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 78.

Bill No. 78 - Appropriations Act, 2004.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading of Bill No. 78, the Appropriations Act, 2004.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 78. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 3520]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise. The honourable Official Opposition House Leader will give us the business and the hours for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be sitting between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., and after the daily routine and Question Period we will be calling Bill No. 21 and Bill No. 66.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:28 p.m.]

[Page 3521]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1597

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Natural Resources)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School student Courtney Clayton is one of 210 students from across Canada to be honoured by the Wendy's Classic Achievers scholarship program; and

Whereas Ms. Clayton was selected from a pool of more than 7,600 applicants in recognition of her community involvement, her academic performance and her participation in extracurricular activities; and

Whereas Ms. Clayton has been an active member of the Memorial Club - an organization that works with veterans;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Courtney Clayton on winning a Wendy's Classic Achievers scholarship and wish her much success in her future academic endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 1598

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Harbour View Convenience and Video in Oyster Pond Jeddore is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

[Page 3522]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Harbour View Convenience and Video in Oyster Pond Jeddore for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1599

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Assure Drive Driving School in Head of Jeddore is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Assure Drive Driving School in Head of Jeddore for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1600

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Hilltop Child Care Centre in Musquodoboit Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Hilltop Child Care Centre in Musquodoboit Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 3523]

RESOLUTION NO. 1601

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Seaforth Plumbing and Heating in Seaforth is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Seaforth Plumbing and Heating in Seaforth for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1602

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas The Bear Den Café in Head of Jeddore is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing The Bear Den Café in Head of Jeddore for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 3524]

RESOLUTION NO. 1603

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas a group of Oxford youth hosted a fundraising barbeque on April 22 and 23, 2004; and

Whereas the group raised about $500 which goes towards the purchase and installation of two basketball nets at the Lions' tennis court area on Jackson Street in Oxford; and

Whereas the youth received permission from the town council and will host one or two more fundraisers with local businesses donating funds or products for the barbeque - included in the Oxford youth are John Hurley, Kody Wood, Nick Purdy, Howie Black, Steven Rushton and Tim Knockwood;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate these youth on their hard work and determination on raising money for this worthwhile cause and wish them all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1604

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Springhill High School Golden Eagles flew home with the silver medal from the King's-Edgehill Annual Basketball Tournament as they placed second by only a one-point span between first and second place; and

Whereas Sam Welsh led the Springhill team with 15 points, followed by Sara Laurie and Patti Gilroy with 12 points each. Julie Best earned 6 points, Sarah Moore earned 4 and Erica Steeves and Kate McMillan landed 2 each and Lyndsey Fraser added a foul shot for the Golden Eagles; and

Whereas the coaches, teachers, students, families and friends were all proud of the way the kids played;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Springhill Ladies Golden Eagles on bringing home the silver medal and wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1605

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Springhill Lady Golden Eagles entered the NSSAF Division III basketball provincial championships ranked number one and they showed they deserved it; and

Whereas the Golden Eagles steamrolled the competition en route to the banner and the provincial champions title; and

Whereas the Golden Eagles were motivated and the players stood up to the challenge with Sam Welsh pouring in 21 points, Julie Best scored 12, Kate McMillan brought in 10, Patti Gilroy 6, Stacey Carter added 4, Sara Laurie added 2 and Erica Steeves added a foul shot;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Springhill Lady Golden Eagles on their title of NSSAF Division III basketball provincial champions and with them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1606

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Springhill and Oxford area Kidney Foundation have held a volunteer appreciation night for the people who have given so freely of their time and effort for such a worthy cause; and

Whereas the volunteers spend many hours fundraising for the Kidney Foundation throughout the year with fundraising events including Boxing Day breakfast, selling tickets on baskets, the March Drive, selling peanuts and suckers in the fall and any other fundraising events; and

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Whereas these funds that are raised are so very important to the Kidney Foundation and monies raised help with research, dialyses and patient services while these extra funds make a huge difference in the lives of those who cope with kidney diseases in their everyday life;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Springhill/Oxford area Kidney Foundation and all the members of this foundation on being recognized for this extremely worthwhile and important work and wish them all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1607

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas a group of Springhill youth got the chance to do a little soul-searching, a little fundraising and have a lot of fun, all on an empty stomach, when the Springhill Baptist Church Youth Group participated in World Vision Canada's 30-hour famine; and

Whereas the youth group members are raising money for children in Africa who can't eat every day and these young people got a taste of what that feels like; and

Whereas the youth involved raised money for World Vision's international projects through the collection of pledges by circulating donation sheets throughout the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Springhill Baptist Church Youth Group on such a worthwhile cause and wish them all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1608

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Springhill High Golden Eagles captured the NSSAF Northumberland Region Division III Girls basketball championship in March 2004; and

Whereas the Golden Eagles can now claim their fourth regional title in five years and they will now advance to the provincial championships in Argyle, Yarmouth County; and

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Whereas Sara Laurie led the team with 23 points, Patti Gilroy with 14 points, Sam Welsh hooped 11 points, Julie Best shot 9 and Kate McMillan and Stacey Carter both had 6;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the team members of the Springhill High Golden Eagles and wish them continued success in the provincials and all other tournaments throughout the season.

RESOLUTION NO. 1609

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Captain Drew Steeves, wife Robyn, and their family, in conjunction with the 1859 Springhill Army Cadet Squadron made a sizeable donation of $10,000 to the Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Centre Project; and

Whereas the family-based group was honoured during a special update night held at the Springhill Campus of the NSCC; and

Whereas the donation will certainly be appreciated by the Springhill Community Centre's committee and will go a long way in seeing the centre become a reality for the Town of Springhill;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Steeves family along with the 1859 Springhill Army Cadet Squadron for this generous donation and wish them all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1610

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Ashley Stonehouse, a Grade 11 student at Springhill Regional High School, will represent Springhill in the nation's capital in May 2004; and

Whereas for the 53rd consecutive year, the Springhill Rotary Club will be participating in the Adventure in Citizenship Program and Ashley Stonehouse has been selected to represent her community this year; and

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Whereas this program promotes a greater understanding and appreciation of citizenship in Canada where the program poses questions to the participants concerning the ethical and moral dimensions of citizenship in a rapidly changing world;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ashley Stonehouse on being chosen to represent Springhill and wish her success in all future endeavours.